Web Architecture

Mark Birbeck Mark.Birbeck at iedigital.net
Tue Nov 30 19:00:49 GMT 1999

Robert La Quey wrote:
> Yes, nice point, so we might say:
> SGML:XML:SML <=> Ptolemy:Copernicus:Kepler

Next you'll be saying that Don is Martin Luther King. (Don King?)

> ><sorry reason="off topic"/>
> No reason to be sorry. Not really off topic. Thanks for 
> improving on the 
> original statement. Historical understanding of the great 
> shifts in paradigms 
> is the most pragmatic of understandings. Even the Cowardly 
> Lion knows that. 

Is this to say that SML is a paradigm shift? A somewhat self-deluding
proposition if so.

I can see that this SML stuff is unstoppable, and before I unsubscribe
from this 'SML mailing list', I would like to make a couple of simple

1. SML is not contributing anything to the greater understanding of
mark-up languages.
   Witness the fact that the debates are re-hashes of old XML debates,
not new ones.

2. If you want to simplify XML for beginners then go ahead. But why not
just write the
   definitive introductory book that takes the core features and
explains them so simply
   that it just seems obvious, and then has an appendix called 'other
features of XML
   you might want to use but don't worry about for now'.

3. Otherwise a newcomer can legitimately say, should I use SML or XML?
This is not the
   same as the choice between XML and SGML, for well known reasons, but
has now sowed
   confusion where SML's proponents claimed to clarify.

4. The size question is a non-issue. Don made preposterous claims about
doubling the speed
   of parsing and halving the size of the parser. Some of the people who
have actually
   written the current crop of XML parsers have said this is 'unlikely'.
Don offers no
   proof - just "a guess". With such scientific rigour it is a surprise
that we are even
   aware of planets, never mind their elliptical orbits.

I have to apologise to those who will now be offended, but much of this
smacks of playing at grown-ups. When a child stands in the shoes of
their parents it is amusing. But when people cut and paste the hard work
and insight that made up the evolution from SGML to XML, passing it off
as their own, it is not a pleasant sight. Sending EBNFs backwards and
forwards - for what? Large shoes - small feet.

The very notion of SML shows a lack of understanding of how XML came
from SGML; the congruity of developments in data, mark-up and in
particular a historically unprecedented desire for standards.

Anyway, I'm not too sad. I remember the day I stumbled on this list;
reading people's ideas and following their arguments, and then
contributing my own. I remember my brain buzzing for days on end with
new ideas for applications and what the internet might eventually become
- stimulated by thoughts and debates from this list. I have learned a
lot from the wise contributions of some genuinely talented people, and
thank them for it.

Where to now? Well, I'm off to the lists where they're doing something.
A common theme in the SML discussion is the supposed 'proliferation' of
standards and the difficulty in keeping up with them. Well, SML won't
help I'm afraid. But here - if anyone is interested - is my pick of the
specs. They're where I'll be hanging out from now on:

I recommend to those of you who haven't, to really try to get to grips
with RDF. I had to read the spec a number of times before its real
significance came through, and now I am enthusing about RDF like I was a
year or so ago with XML. Hopefully the rest of you won't be as dim as me
and will get it much faster; but if you are, the extra effort is still
worth it.

Also, have some fun with SOAP and XML-RPC. Controlling one server from
another is an important part of the future.

More substantial though, for real industrial-strength systems, is
WebDAV. Particularly important for group working - although don't treat
that notion too narrowly. Most current systems use it for file control
but it's very exciting for providing a standard way of manipulating
databases or other dynamic content.

What about index servers that index other indexes? Got to be an
important part of the future, and DASL looks at ways to search this meta

Sure, I know they shouldn't have done it, but they have. WAP will
probably have a few years life before everything harmonises (around XML
2.0?), but in the meantime who can honestly say they don't want to allow
access to their corporate intranet through a phone? Got to be the fun
project that you will try and find a reason for doing next year.

As you can tell I'm mostly interested in anything that deals with the
'meta' end. On other stuff, watch out for using the power of the server
to deliver sophisticated content to legacy browsers. Anyone who didn't
take a look at that Mozquiro stuff that popped up the other day ... go!
Now! What are you waiting for? It's a simple idea beautifully executed.

Best regards everyone, and thanks for having me,


PS If you're ever in the area ... actually on second thoughts ...

PPS Anyone know how you unsubscribe from this list? (Kidding ... I've
got it here somewhere ...)

Mark Birbeck
Managing Director
x-port.net Ltd.
220 Bon Marché Centre
241-251 Ferndale Road
w: http://www.iedigital.net/
t: +44 (171) 501 9502
e: Mark.Birbeck at iedigital.net

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