XML complexity, namespaces (was WG)

Richard Goerwitz richard at goon.stg.brown.edu
Fri Mar 19 00:32:29 GMT 1999

Marcus Carr wrote:

> > There are significant portions of the old SGML community working to
> > improve XML and to help build the missing parts which are needed. I have
> > a lot of rwespect for that portion...
> Spare me. The biggest driving factor behind people working in SGML is
> the fact that there are clients who want work done. SGML is neither
> complex nor low-powered, as numerous defence, telcos, ..., etc. can
> attest.

You are right in observing that these industries have all profited from
SGML-based descriptive markup.  You are wrong if you are also asserting
that there isn't any room for dramatic improvement (e.g., in the area of

I come from a small shop that does a lot of SGML work.  Trust me:  SGML
is complex and intractable.  Software that works with it is scarce and
often expensive, and too often doesn't work very well.  Just because a
giant telco firm can muster the personnel to deal with SGML doesn't make
it a particularly elegant solution, except by way of comparison with
approaches that use non-standard or presentation-focused languages.

As for DTDs:

The growing realization that DTDs are insufficient for XML is not a
result of mindless SGML bashing.  Nor does it represent a failure to ap-
preciate how great a leap SGML was in the 80s.  This realization is,
rather, just something implementors are coming to after painful experi-
ences trying to make DTDs work with XML.

The sooner we can all agree on another schema mechanism, the sooner we
can all stop trying to outfit XML with all the kludges that people have
already built onto SGML to make it useful in a modern, scoped, object-
oriented world.

I'm increasingly looking on the original SGML-compatibility goal for
XML as a necessary political move - but one that should be shed at the
earliest convenient opportunity.

This doesn't mean we should shed all the experience that the SGML com-
munity can bring to the table, of course.


Richard Goerwitz
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