XSL Debate, Leventhal responds to Stephen Deach

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Fri Jun 11 20:48:54 BST 1999

At 01:56 PM 6/11/99 -0400, Jonathan Borden wrote:
>    Not at all.  Anyone who disagrees with me is just plain wrong, and this
>is a longstanding fact :-)) The whining comment is directed not at those who
>disagree with my position, rather at browser vendors who complain that the
>attention given to XSL takes away from the ability or desire to use CSS. My
>position is that browsers should implement *both*. The argument against XSL
>is starting to sound like "I already have too much work to do..."

Remember, not everyone has Microsoft's resources, and implementing a spec
you flat out disagree with isn't a pleasant task. 

>My fear is that a few inflamatory comments
>in a newsgroup and on xml.com will generate an impression that there is
>widespread dissatisfaction with XSL in general. The WWW is a large place and
>I think there is more than enough room for CSS, XSL and DSSSL. If the
>browser vendors implement both CSS and XSL, then the WWW has choice about
>what to use.

I'm afraid that there _is_ widespread dissatisfaction with XSL in general.
The XSL-List discussions and the XML.com discussions have made that clear.
It's very hard to say negative things on XSL-list about the XSL project,
unless you enjoy getting beaten up.  I'm impressed that we detractors have
held out as well as we have, and for so long.

I may just be a lightning rod for people who don't like XSL, but I've had
at least 10 Java developers say they thought XSLT was a horrible mess,
along with about 15 Web developers.  The 'FOs Considered Harmful'
discussions raised real problems, that most XSL enthusiasts seemed inclined
to ignore rather than solve, and those arguments go to the heart of what
the 'Web' is about.

>    Let me clarify this position. I am concerned almost entirely with XSLT
>not XSL-FO. The XSL-FO vs. CSS argument is an entirely reasonable one ...
>and one which my mind is not yet made up on. XSLT is an entirely different
>issue. The "war" however has been declared on XSLT.

The 'war' has been declared on both fronts, though it sounds like the FO
folks are at least trying to use CSS vocabulary at this point.  (See recent
postings on XSL-List.)

>    What is the Web aside from what the W3C says it is? Is the idea of a web
>native distributed computing platform _good_ for the "web"? If so, ought
>this include ECMAScript? Java? XSLT?

If Netscape hadn't seen the W3C as Microsoft-friendly hostile territory, it
might be W3Cscript rather than ECMAScript, or so I've read a few times.  I
doubt that Java will get anywhere near the W3C.  XSLT may or may not be the
business of the W3C - the membership is going to have to decide that.

The best I can say for XSL is that the XSL community got off on the wrong
foot by describing themselves as DSSSL-Lite and ignoring/denigrating CSS
rather than focusing on shared vocabularies.  Transformation to XML+CSS
(even a rather modified and extended CSS) rather than transformation to FOs
of whatever vocabulary would have sidestepped 90% of these issues.
Instead, they forged ahead on their own, making enemies rather than allies.
 It's unfortunate, but that's where it's at, from my perspective.  

XSL could have looked very different had cooperation between XSL and CSS
begun earlier, but the core functionality you keep demanding would probably
have worked about the same.

Disclaimer: I have no access to W3C proceedings - this is purely an
outsider's perspective on what may have/could have happened.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer / Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical (July)
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