Another look at namespaces

David Megginson david at
Sat Sep 18 12:31:30 BST 1999

Paul Prescod writes:

 > This sounds similar to me to a goal we set in designing XML. It's
 > become corrupted over time but as I recall the original goal was
 > that XML should not only be implement but "hackable" in the sense
 > that you could sit down with Perl and Awk regular expressions and
 > do cool things with XML documents like rename element types and so
 > forth.

Yes, the famous Desperate Perl Hacker.  Granted, that was a slightly
excessive goal, but in striving for it, the XML WG did create
something that was implementable.  I had the first AElfred prototype
running in a couple of evenings, while I had spent over a year on and
off trying to come up with a Java-based SGML parser.  The goal of
writing an XML parser in a week (i.e. 40-50 hours) is very attainable,
even by non-specialists.

I agree that there's little point in writing XML parsers any more, but
the fact that they were trivially easy to write helped massively with
their adoption -- the irony of the simplicity (or worse-is-better)
principle is that, in the end, it conceals itself: now that there is
lots of XML parsing software, it doesn't matter whether XML is simple
or complex (because the complexity is hidden from the application);
but that software wouldn't exist if XML hadn't been so simple in the
first place.  

That's why, for example, we never ended up with a single Java-based
SGML parser (even though it would be just as easy to process SGML if
we did have the libraries).

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at

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