XML Information Set Requirements, W3C Note 18-February-1999

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Sat Feb 20 15:17:25 GMT 1999

At 10:38 PM 2/20/99 +0800, James Tauber wrote:
>>It seems that some of XML's original denizens aren't too happy about
>>proposals for making XML useful in a broader set of fields than document
>>publishing and interchange.  Paul pours cold water on having the Infoset
>>group ponder anything new, and James says he'll be disappointed because XML
>>is no longer focused on its original problem set.
>Let me clarify: I have no problem with XML being used beyond its original
>problem set. What I have a problem with is the notion that XML should forget
>trying to solve its original problem set.

I would like very much for XML to solve its original problem set; I don't
see that, however, as a reason not to pursue other possibilities.  It
sounded in your earlier message as if you saw modifications of XML to
accomodate these as a distraction from the 'core' task of XML for document

>Jeffrey Sussna was suggesting that XML is moving and should move away from
>"markup". I'm simply saying there are some people who still want the M in
>XML. Sure, use XML for other things too. The wide range of applications
>people are finding for XML excites me. But there are people that want to use
>XML for markup and they should not be forgotten.

Should not be forgotten, yes, but privileged?  I don't know about that.

>I was struck by your clause "XML is no longer focused on its original
>problem set". Are you saying the W3C has changed its view of what XML is

No, the W3C hasn't (publicly), but the world is doing so every day.  XML
implementations in the document space have been slow to arrive and
underpowered when they do.  The current state of browsers and editors
speaks to this painfully and vividly.  On the other hand, implementations
focused on interchange and other data-focused solutions seem to be growing
quite happily.  While the delays in the document space may be caused by the
complexity of the problems involved, I'd like to see the projects outside
of that space get some attention as well.

>>The delays in tools
>>for managing, creating, linking, and presenting XML documents have left XML
>>without very much to do for documents - presenting unlinked documents in
>>beta viewers isn't especially exciting, and so far XML hasn't made much of
>>a dent on its original claim to be 'SGML for the Web'.
>But this does not mean we should abandon that aim. That's my whole point.

I don't think I've proposed anything that would require abandoning that
aim; I don't think Jeffrey Sussna proposed anything of that sort either.
It might require considering accomodating other possibilities more
seriously, but I don't think abandonment of documents and the Web is on the
table.  Describing documents as a particular set of other components is
definitely on the table (if I read Jeffrey's original proposal correctly),
but that is hardly a barrier to using XML to create and manage documents.

>If at the end of the day (and we are not there yet, remember) XML solves all
>sorts of problems in application interoperation, object serialisation and so
>on but does not solve the problems of document interchange, then XML has

Well, we've had plenty of arguments about what constitutes failure on this
list.  I suspect that supporting development in other areas of XML
implementation will lead to more tools and more interest in using XML for
document management, but I could be wrong.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer / Building XML Applications (April)
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