Regulating the XML Marketplace

Paul Prescod paul at
Fri Jan 8 17:45:13 GMT 1999

"Simon St.Laurent" wrote:
> Paul's honesty is fine; it's the dismissal of XML's potential that I find
> extraordinarily disturbing from someone so close to the standard.  Calling
> XML plumbing is good - provided you follow up by saying that plumbing is
> useful, indeed critically important, not by saying that it does 'NOTHING' new.

"Nothing new" and "critically important" are not contradictory statements.
Mac users dismiss Windows 9X's user interface as derivative. Unix users
dismiss NT's connectivity similarly. Still, the deployment of these OLD
technologies on millions of desktops is pretty exciting.

I think that our real disagreement is not on technology or potential. We
disagree on marketing. Five years ago I would have been very annoyed had I
read someone speaking of SGML that way. After all, the "world" had not yet
caught on to SGML's potential and to me, promoting it was a moral
necessity. The world was wasting huge amounts of money translating between
incompatible formats and it wasn't going to stop doing that if SGML users
went around trumpetting its flaws.

When XML came along, I stopped promoting SGML, XML or generic markup. It
doesn't need promoting. The meme is out there. It has caught hold. It is
the leader in various data interchange fields. It can only be displaced by
something better. So now I don't feel any need to sugar coat the fact that
XML doesn't allow anything new, it just saves time and money.

Once again, I do think that XSL does allow some new stuff, so there *is*
cool stuff you can demo: but the demo watchers won't know or care if the
input is XML or Lisp s-expressions or Python pickles.

> There are no formal 'Web evangelists', though Tim Berners-Lee is about the
> closest thing we've got.  I proposed creating an organized group of XML
> evangelists at the beginning of last year, and got virtually no support.

That's because saving money does not need to be evangelized! It's the
*one* thing that sells itself! In many of XML's markets (unlike many of
SGML's markets) the move to XML actually saves money in the short, medium
and long terms. Traditionally SGML has only saved money in the long term.

I am going to go so far as to claim that XML evangelism works AGAINST
connectivity and productivity. Because of the hype we rush out
specifications without properly aligning them ("data model? no time. do it
later.") and standardize ideas that have not been proven in the field yet.
If XML was less of a high-profile standard, we could go back now and make
some tweaks based on experience.We are also reinventing wheels because few
people want to take the time to research existing technologies (i.e. is
OQL an XML query language? If not, how not? If so, do we need XQL) 

When the XML hype goes away (approx 2 years from now) we will be able to
take a more careful, deliberative approach to standards-based data

 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer speaking for only himself

"I want to give beauty pageants the respectability they deserve."
            - Brooke Ross, Miss Canada International

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