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Re: Web Storage & SQL

From: Nikunj Mehta <nikunj.mehta@oracle.com>
Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2009 13:35:58 -0700
Cc: public-webapps@w3c.org
Message-Id: <0BF31445-DD7A-464D-8D1D-AF0650FE95E5@oracle.com>
To: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>

On Apr 9, 2009, at 12:52 PM, Maciej Stachowiak wrote:

>
> On Apr 9, 2009, at 8:19 AM, Boris Zbarsky wrote:
>
>> Giovanni Campagna wrote:
>>> So why not adding a parameter on openDatabase() to specify what kind
>>> of database we want (and what kind of query language we will use)?
>>> I mean something like
>>> openDatabase(name, version, type, displayName, estimatedSize)
>>> where type can be any string
>>> so, for example, type = "sql" uses the standard SQL, type="sqlite"
>>> uses SQLite extensions, type="-vendor-xyz" is a vendor specific
>>> extension, etc.
>>
>> How does this solve the original "no such thing as standard SQL,  
>> really" issue?
>
> I agree that "no such thing as standard SQL" (or rather the fact  
> that implementations all have extensions and divergences from the  
> spec) is a problem. But I am not sure inventing a brand new query  
> language and database model as proposed by Vlad is a good solution  
> to this problem. A few thoughts off the cuff in no particular order:
>
> 1) Applications are starting to be deployed which use the SQL-based  
> storage API, such as the mobile version of GMail. So it may be too  
> late for us to remove SQL storage from WebKit entirely. If we want  
> this content to interoperate with non-WebKit-based user agents, then  
> we will ultimately need a clear spec for the SQL dialect to use,  
> even if we also added an OODB or a relational database using some  
> other query language.

Not clear who is 'us' or 'we'. Its great that WebKit is sporting a  
preliminary spec and people are building applications on it, but  
anyone can rely on it at their own risk. It does not justify why the  
SQL technology is superior to other choices, however preliminary they  
might be. Or you risk going down the path of EJB which only 'got  
persistence right' after 5 iterations and only when the public  
declared a revolt and completely gave up on J2EE persistence.

I find it hard to accept that the choice made by any current  
application makes us all beholden to a technology as standard for  
something as fundamentally path-breaking as locally persistent  
structured storage.

Take, for example, the history of CSS. Its origins lie in TBL's  
original user agent NeXT and was first proposed for standardization in  
1993. Early on there was no notion of cascading, or even an  
understanding of selectors. Eventually, selectors became critical to  
their success and allowed syntax to be separated from semantics rather  
gracefully. By the same token, we are beginning to talk about various  
storage techniques including opaque and clear structures, which is  
great. Nonetheless, SQL as a given cannot be assumed to be the only  
acceptable query language for the data being managed. Problems of this  
model include -

1. Problems caused by version mismatches between server and client  
schemas significantly affects decentralized evolution.  2. The  
relational model does not allow data for which there is no schema  
placeholder, thus rejecting the principle of 'ignore what you don't  
understand'.
3. Incompatibility between database ids and URLs means that  
applications live a schizophrenic life when it comes to identifying  
data.
4. Incompatibility between database operations and HTTP methods means  
that atomicity and idempotence guarantees of HTTP are inapplicable to  
local data

>
>
> 2) It's true that the server side code for many Web sites uses an  
> object-relational mapping layer. However, so far as I know, very few  
> use an actual OODB. Relational databases are dominant in the market  
> and OODBs are a rarely used niche product. Thus, I question Vlad's  
> suggestion than a client-side OODB would sufficiently meet the needs  
> of authors. Rather, we should make sure that the platform supports  
> adding an object-relational mapping on top of SQL storage.

It is fine for browsers to use a database to store data and then  
provide a limited IDL interface to access this data just like Mozilla  
decided to use SQLite for storing browsing history.  It is completely  
another thing to expose the full syntax and semantics of SQL in a  
general purpose manner as an API. It is fraught with perils as anyone  
who has tried to standardize data access technologies would vouch.

>
> 3) It's not obvious to me that designing and clearly specifying a  
> brand new query language would be easier than specifying a dialect  
> of SQL. Note that this may require implementations to actually parse  
> queries themselves and possibly change them, to ensure that the  
> accepted syntax and semantics conform to the dialect. We are ok with  
> this.

It is not clear to me whether the converse is true. Have you seen any  
attempt to standardize a syntax as complicated as SQL? When do you  
hope to have a Rec of a "SQL subset for Web applications" ready?

>
> 4) It's not obvious to me that writing a spec for a query language  
> with (afaik) a single implementation, such as jLINQ, is easier than  
> writing a clear and correct spec for "what SQLite does" or some  
> subset thereof.

If 10 years of successive attempts at harmonizing JDBC access have  
still skirted the issue of "standardizing" SQL for the purposes of  
data access from Java applications, what hope do we have to answer the  
same questions in a Web browser world?

>
>
> Thus, I think the best path forward is to spec a particular SQL  
> dialect, even though that task may be boring and unpleasant and not  
> as fun as inventing a new kind of database.

It is not about being boring or uninteresting - the problem is that  
fundamentally, we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction by  
leading the wider Web community to believe that SQL and relational  
model is the right approach to deal with Web application (locally  
persistent) data.

>
>
> Regards,
> Maciej
>
>
[1] http://virtuelvis.com/archives/2005/01/css-history
Received on Thursday, 9 April 2009 20:37:49 GMT

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