|Motion, even in the direction of the horizon which presents itself to a person standing erect with open eyes facing forward, is not necessarily progress.|
elow are some thoughts I had about XML during the summer of 1998. I still think they may be worth reading and express valid concerns. After attending the Graphic Communication Association's XML 98 conference (Chicago, 14-20 November 1998), however, I feel that the issues are much bigger, and that my earlier concerns and thoughts do not point in the direction(s) where limited energy will likely be most productively expended -- although I still do believe it is important for grandmothers to be able to author their own web pages.
After the conference, I no longer see XML simply as "dumbed down" SGML. I now see XML itself more as a "hook" on which a lot of powerful and complex supporting technologies will be hung -- like a pile of garments way overloading a wobbly coat rack (could these technologies have been hung on the SGML hook? For "political" reasons, that now seems an idle question). I now anticipate that XML will likely become far more complex and difficult than SGML, when considered in the light all the adjunctive technologies and standards surrounding it (e-commerce technologies, XSL, Namespaces, Xlink, Schemas of whatever kind, Link maps, XIML(?), GKW(?) etc.).
These developments (e.g., schemas replacing DTDs) may result in XML becoming far more powerful than SGML ever was in practice. Some of the challenges XML is tackling (even such seeming details as handling non-Latin character sets, e.g., Kanji) may immensely add complexity. There may be "consequences" (as in, e.g., "unanticipated side effects"). Beyond observing the truism that complexification should itself be cause for concern, I have no idea where XML is headed in its impacts on society, technology or technological workers. I am, however, now pretty sure that the things about which I wrote below are not, as I thought when I wrote them (except for that concern about grandmothers!), "key issues" even in the "regional ontology(ies)" directly involved, not to mention more inclusive humasn[e] perspectives.
Also, I would like to respond to a snide remark about HTML, made by one of the XML 98 conference presenters. This person denigrated HTML as "just anything Netscape or Microsoft decided to support in their browsers, and that HTML web pages were never validated in any way". I agree that HTML is only formatting markup, and it is obvious that even major corporations' and academic institutions' websites are generally composed of pages which don't even have "doctype" declarations. However: almost all the HTML pages on this web site (http://www.users.cloud9.net/~bradmcc/) are validated, and the pages that are not generally have good reasons for being that way, along the lines of another conference speaker's "defense of invalid SGML" in situations where the invalidity of the marked up text -- as in the present page -- is part of a point made by and/or the use to be made of the text.
This page tests what
This would allow grandmothers and others to continue to produce their
own web pages without needing to use web-page construction programs (e.g.,
I would urge: Where
there is serious concern for structural markup,
[Vice-president of marketing, P.G.] Bartlett at ArborText [a key supplier of SGML and XML software] has no doubts about what's going on. "XML," he says, "will prove to be one of the top ten technological innovations of the first century of computing." (New Scientist, 30 May 98, p. 37)
If a "dumbed down" form of
To see the source code for this file, with its undefined markup, please
here. If anyone wants to go
SGML document introducing you to SGML.
Read Laurent Sabarthez' notes about XML (SGML's "replacement").
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page is not|
valid HTML 3.2, 4.0
or anything else! ]