facts, conclusions, and exhortations re XML (long)

Paul Prescod paul at prescod.net
Tue Nov 23 08:23:56 GMT 1999

"Steven R. Newcomb" wrote:
> ...
> The potential benefit
> of XML is that it will allow any *knowledge* to be transferred by
> anyone to anyone else.  That can only happen under one of two
> circumstances:
> * if the protocols and services that enable knowledge transfer are
>   commoditized (virtually all people who love the Web prefer this
>   possibility), or
> * if all the important protocols and services are totally controlled
>   by a worldwide de facto monopoly (Microsoft prefers this
>   possibility, as long as the monopoly belongs to Microsoft).

Or else we could continue to muddle along with a mix of proprietary and
open standards and protocols as we have for decades and probably will
for decades to come. 

> I ran across more evidence of Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior
> recently.  Most of you probably already knew about it.  XPath, as
> implemented by Microsoft, provides access to the first node of any
> nodelist as the zeroeth node (the node in the list that is addressed
> by an array index value of 0), while the relevant W3C draft requires
> it to be the first (index value of 1) node.  

Some relevant facts:

 1. Early versions of Microsoft's XML parser expected an upper case XML
declaration and allowed a minimized </> end-tag syntax (which I rather
liked). When XML 1.0 was finalized they fixed their parser to conform to
it. IE5 disallows both practices by default. Those conventions have thus
fallen into disuse.

 2. Early versions of Microsoft's XSL engine used a totally different
syntax: NOTE-XSL. But IE5 used a syntax similar to (but not identical
to) the draft that was available when IE5 shipped. AFAIK, NOTE-XSL does
not work anymore and the dozens of NOTE-XSL stylesheets in existence
have fallen into obsolecence.

 3. IE5 claims to support XML-Data but the subset that it supports is so
anemic that one presumes that Microsoft is really very half-hearted
about the entire effort.

 4. Hardly anybody uses IE5 client-side stylesheet for production work.
To start with, no serious web publisher can afford to alienate the vast
majority of users using non-IE5 client software. 

Microsoft labels these features "technology previews." They know that
some stupid people will build real systems on them but they say, quite
rightly, that those systems will break with new versions of the tools
and those people "get what they deserve." If it were Netscape issuing
these technology previews we would laud them for testing out new ideas
and providing feedback to the standards process (which Microsoft DOES

Let's give credit where it is due. The practice of shipping "technology
previews" has benefits and costs but Microsoft's history indicates that
they move to the real specifications when they become available.
 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer speaking for himself
It's such a 
Being always

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