Feeling good about SML

Marcus Carr mrc at allette.com.au
Tue Nov 16 23:13:12 GMT 1999

Don Park wrote:

> Putting aside the justification for SML for a moment, allow me to
> replace SGML with XML and XML with SML in your paragraph:
> "As to the question of SML derailing XML, it simply isn't the
> case. Our XML customers are happy to stay where they are,
> secure in the knowledge that they can get to SML in the blink of
> an eye when they need to. SML didn't derail XML any more than
> it derailed SGML. SML is a facilitating syntax to make your
> data usable by others - if they understand this, I doubt if many
> companies using XML are the least bit bothered by SML.  Excited
> that they can easily repurpose their data, yes, but not bothered."
> It sounds like a reasonable statement if made 2 years from now.

I think it's a completely different thing. When we developed SGML systems for people in the
past, it was by and large sold as a safe storage mechanism, capable of making their
information useable in fifty years time. We couldn't tell them that it was going to be easy to
print or otherwise view their data - in fact in most cases we had to ensure that they could
live with these difficulties. SGML was and is about future-proofing data.

XML is not about storage per se - in fact it is widely accepted that many documents will have
a life as short as the time that it takes for two applications to connect and transfer. XML is
a facilitating syntax - that's one of the major reasons that the SGML community accepted it as
a good thing, and why many of that community still scoff at the "SGML is too hard" mantra. If
XML had been aligned more as a replacement for SGML, the attitudes may well have been
different, so perhaps our different opinions reflect our perceptions about the longevity of

With SGML much of the control was managed by the SGML declaration - I believe that if you want
to support less that the entire XML recommendation it should be handled by a similar
mechanism. I don't believe that dumbing down requirements is going to result in a healthy,
ubiquitous suite of applications.


Marcus Carr                      email:  mrc at allette.com.au
Allette Systems (Australia)      www:    http://www.allette.com.au
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
       - Einstein

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