Do SGML and XML co-exist? (was Re: Feeling good about SML)

David Megginson david at
Wed Nov 17 01:58:14 GMT 1999

"Don Park" <donpark at> writes:

> 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.

To bad it's completely wrong.  

The SGML market has flatlined, only a year and a half after XML came
out -- there are virtually no new SGML products, no new SGML books,
almost no SGML conferences, and everyone I know who has a big SGML
system is privately talking about XML migration plans (which may take
a decade in some cases).  SGML development on the major document types
and industry specs (NITF, DocBook, TEI, etc.) has ceased completely,
and all new industry document types that I've seen recently are coming
out only in XML.

This is a good thing -- it would have been fine if XML had died and
full SGML had won, and it's fine the way it is, but if both SGML and
XML had been equally strong competitors, we would have been dealing at
best with the same problem people have with OpenGL/DirectX,

XML's success is primarily an economic success, not a technical one,
but in the technical world economic success is what matters because
it's what delivers the network effect that makes life exciting.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at

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