What is XML for?

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Fri Jan 29 20:53:32 GMT 1999

At 02:06 PM 1/29/99 -0600, Paul Prescod wrote:
>[...much grumbling about using screwdrivers as hammers...]
>> Why does XML have an opportunity, when SGML had the same tools and more?
>> Because it's simple enough for neophytes to walk up to and explore, and
>> because processing it isn't very hard.  Two good things that lower the cost
>> of development significantly.
>What XML has is hype. The reason it has hype is because it comes from the
>W3C and it is easy enough to make a parser for it that programmers feel
>like they could do it "if they had to" even if a small minority choose to.
>Neophytes have been walking up to and exploring SGML since the first free
>parser became available a decade ago.

You can dismiss it as hype if you like, but I'd prefer to call it
enthusiasm.  I think we have an opportunity here to recover a lot of the
neophytes who walked up to SGML and ran away screaming - I was one myself,
once.  Not only that, but we can bring in people who never explored SGML
because of its reputed focus on documents.

Java has hype as well.  And I use Java all the time to do some very
interesting things, many of which have to do with XML.  Hype on top of
hype?  Works great for me.

>> ...
>> But I'd rather see the W3C invent something new that works
>> on the Web than leave us with older tools that don't work well on the Web.
>We don't know whether they work on the Web because nobody has ever tried
>to adapt them for the Web. We're reinventing things first and "asking
>questions" later.

Especially with XSL, it seems, though I know it's rude to say that.
Remember that the W3C is about the Web, and not necessarily about whatever
was happening before.  If isn't appropriate, people will go elsewhere.  If
the older ways work better, people will use them. 

>> ...
>> What's XML for?  Anything you like.  Build it, and see if people come.
>You can say that about anything. That doesn't mean that every tool is
>equally good for every job. It is possible to abuse XML just as you can
>abuse a screwdriver.

Bartender - get me another screwdriver!  I'm waiting to see if people will
use my projects, and I might as well have a drink or two or three or four!

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