Tim Bray tbray at textuality.com
Thu Nov 18 04:46:54 GMT 1999

So Len says that it only went over the top because Microsoft liked it.  Len 
is mostly wrong, but he's used to me saying that and sometimes I'm wrong 
when I do.

For the record.  By the end of 1995, anyone with half a brain could see that
HTML was just not up to some of the jobs that people wanted to get done on 
the Web.  In parallel, some of us had been shouting at the SGML crowd from
inside for years that SGML needed radical simplification.  I can remember
like yesterday at the big SGML conference in 93 or 92 or so, standing around
with Steve DeRose and Jean Paoli and Erik Naggum (most XMLers won't remember
him) agreeing that we ought to do this.  But we didn't, then.

I got invited to join the original XML committee because at SGML/Europe
in 1996 in Munich, I gave a closing keynote inviting the crowd to dispense
with 80% of it.

It is to Jon Bosak's immense credit that he (like many of us) not only 
saw the need for simplification but (unlike anyone else) went and hounded
the W3C until it became less trouble for them to give him his committee than
to keep on saying SGML was irrelevant.

Speaking as one of Jon's nominees I am naturally of the opinion that he
couldn't have picked a better group, but I kinda think that any group of
SGML veterans, some of whom had operated large web sites, would have done
about as well.

And then... First off, Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for Getting It way 
before many other allegedly smart industry leaders.  But there were a bunch
of reasons, some of them accidents of history, why it went over the top.
One of them was, people looked at it seriously because Microsoft was onside.
They soon noticed that unlike a lot of other things Microsoft liked, it was
unlikely to be something that Microsoft could control.  

Any simple explanation of XML's success is simply wrong.  Life, and the
Web biz, are complicated.

It was astounding; Jon and I and some of the others made a concentrated
marketing effort starting at the end of 1996 and went shouting off in all
directions about XML.  It was like hurling your entire weight against a 
locked door that turns out not to be there.  The world, more or less, said 
"yeah, OK".

The details make a good story.  But probably entertaining only to 
syntax geeks. -Tim

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