What Clean Specs Achieve, WAS: Colonialism, SAX, Java, and Namespaces

Rob Schoening rschoening at unforgettable.com
Mon Feb 8 22:44:39 GMT 1999

>At 12:35 PM 2/8/99 -0800, Rob Schoening wrote:
>>  XML has nothing of the kind.  I hate to sound pessimistic, but if things
>>are left to evolve this way, XML is going to become just another
>>open-standard *file format*.  
>Uh, and your point is? -T.

My point is that we have no name for XML-related technologies other
than...XML.  This is a misnomer, and I think it's creating problems.

Perhaps I have gotten ahead of myself, but I thought the cornerstone of XML
was the structured document, not its representation.  I thought that there
was an implicit distiction being made between content and structure.  

The english language sentence "Grass is green" is an expression of the
proposition that grass is green.  Similarly, I thought that: 

    <plant> Grass </plant> is <color> green </color> 

was simply an XML/english sentence expressing not only the above
proposition, but also some explicit markup relations, namely that "Grass" is
in a plant context and "green" is in a color context.

So, while XML (the language) may be just a file format, XML (in the
colloquial sense) is much more!

Unfortunatey it seems that that W3C is focusing on the XML language, not XML
in general.  The consequence of this is that DOM ends up with a lesser
status than XML.  A DOM tree is the in-memory representation of the
structured XML *content*, not the XML document itself.  This distinction is
critical!  I fear that the XML language has become more important than the
data that it represents.

XML technologies have to potential to allow us to have a common
representation of data on-disk, in-memory and across-the-wire.  This is
really powerful.  But until we get unstuck from the linguistic details of
the first, we will have nothing more than yet another file format.

My proposal is that we invent a name for all these related technologies so
that the relations between them will be clearer.  Java is a good example. 
Sun is pretty clear about how the language, VM, specs, and APIs fit under
the Java(tm) label.  Bill Gates can acknowledge whichever portions that he
chooses, but Sun has made the official picture quite clear.

Until the relationships between all these XML technologies are laid out, I'm
afraid that the focus on the XML language as the centerpiece will skew the
whole effort and limit its potential.


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