W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-sgml-wg@w3.org > November 1996

Re: Recent ERB votes

From: Len Bullard <cbullard@HiWAAY.net>
Date: Sun, 10 Nov 1996 23:20:03 -0600
Message-ID: <3286B783.774F@HiWAAY.net>
To: Paul Prescod <papresco@calum.csclub.uwaterloo.ca>
CC: W3C-SGML-WG@w3.org
Paul Prescod wrote:

> Although I would strongly prefer a standard that works directly with
> existing SGML source files, I don't think that a subtly different XML will
> "compete" with SGML. Hardly anyone currently serves "real SGML" on the Web
> (compared to the number of people that _have_ real SGML). Most people either
> don't put it on the Web, or convert it to HTML (losing a lot of
> information). Either way we lose.

What is currently done and what can be done are different.  What 
the plans of the ERB members and the plans of the implementors 
are different.  What the W3C members want and what is needed 
may be different.  What is ISO 8879 SGML and the XML draft 
are different.  Who loses?  Begging the question.  I don't 
accept that. 

> Although it would not be ideal, an XML that allows a simple, obvious
> transform from SGML is MUCH preferable to the current situation. I see a
> requirement to transform into XML as an inconvenience but not a show-stopper.

No.  Nor do I.  I just see a slightly more awkward ugly system.  I see
the same arguments being presented to defend HTML compatibility 
that are used to defend SGML incompatibility.  I see nonsense, and 
pure and simple also-rans taking advantage of this situation.
I don't like it, but I don't vote.  But the name of the project 
was SGML On The Web.  When Connoly wrote to me about it, and 
Jon asked me to join, that is what it was called.  Yes, I've 
read the statements as published.  But if this is not to be 
SGML On The Web, those are false colors and this project has 
been misrepresented to the SGML community to gain from it 
a credibility it does not merit.  I can't say that any plainer.
 
> What political environment is this political suicide within? XML isn't an
> ISO standard, but a W3C standard. SGML 97 will be, but it will obviously not
> mention HTML at all. SGML 97 can standardize the <e/> format as the
> "default" representation for "simple SGML" documents. Some HTML-based XML
> documents will not be Simple SGML", just as many other legacy SGML documents
> will not be Simple SGML. I don't see where political suicide comes in.

Ask those who introduced the term as relevant to a defense of 
grandfathering HTML.  It wasn't me.  Whoever or whatever gives 
them this sense, they must explain.  It isn't the SGML community 
of the ISO working groups as far as I can tell.  There is one 
significant problem with consoritium standards as has been 
noted before; the need to standardize member practice.

> SGML 97 and XML have different legacy problems. The ERB wants some subset of
> XML documents to be compatible with EXISTING BROWSERS. That seems like a
> politically smart move to me.

Whose browsers, Paul?  NS and MS? There aren't many viable players 
left for HTML.  Guess what?  MS votes but contributes nothing
to this list.  Let Paoli defend 
his browser, not you, not the rest of you.  Microsoft or Netscape.
Their voices aren't even heard on this list.  MS justs votes.
Nice job if you can get it. If they want to defend their 
*existing browsers*, let them contribute to the discussion.  
Are they above that?

Politics, not technology?  It seems that compatibility with 
the existing base of SGML tools for SGML On The Web has a voice 
here too?  Am I wrong?  I think the SGML community at large 
should think about this.  I think they should be very aware 
that a self-appointed group of people under the banner of the
W3C is deciding whether web browsers from NS or MS are more 
important than a decade of effort of standards-based tool 
development and millions of dollars of existing information 
for systems whose importance are a bit more invested than 
What's On My Tube This Nanosecond.  No, Paul, I am losing 
patience with this argument. 

> Could a parser-implementor comment on the extra difficulty imposed by the
> "don't worry, be smart" solution? How hard is it?

It isn't.  I don't think that is the issue.
 
> But we already KNOW the cost of kluges. They are _expensive_. DynaWeb is
> _expensive_. DTD-specific converters are _expensive_. Panorama is expensive
> because most of your users will never download it, and your information will
> be lost. If these kluges were cheap, I would wait a few years for the
> network to speed up, and processors to speed up and would just put raw SGML
> on the Web.

You won't be waiting that long.  But you won't build it.  Your
collegiate friends won't build it.  The W3C won't build it.
You are too afraid, too enthralled and too bought.

HTML and Mosaic were kluges.  That didn't bother you because they 
were free.  Better hope MS and NS keep that freeware coming.
Your choices there are narrow.
 
> "Simple SGML" (unrelated to the Web) is also interesting and important, but
> it could be standardized in SGML 97.

Yes.  It will be what the Chair, editor and the working group of ISO 
make it.  You better hope that "small incompatibilities" are what 
they choose as well.  Related to the Web?  The *Web* is HTTP.
HTML is a notation.  More coming online every minute. If SGML 97
is positioned for the Internet, there is nothing we can say 
or do about it.  That is ISO's perogative.  From what I see 
of this discussion, the ISO WG8 members are doing everything 
they can to accomodate.  It is the ERB that is being prejudicial.

> SGML on the Web seems to be a non-starter for small to medium sized
> companies/departments and individuals of all sizes.

Bullshit.  Pure and simple Bullshit. Anyone out there tried?
It depends on the simplification assumptions one makes and 
the stylesheet.  Have you tried?  No.

> Even for big companies,
> I think that it is probably misleading to call the current (or near future)
> state of affairs "SGML on the Web". Panorama documents are not accessible to
> the majority of Web surfers, and SGML-transformed-to-HTML isn't really SGML
> anymore. If you are comfortable converting to HTML, you will be even more
> comfortable converting to XML (or XHTML, in the short term).

I don't want to convert anything I don't have to.  

There is no fixing HTML.  NS and MS own HTML.  It's spoilt goods.
XML is still just a proposal.  If NS and MS reject it, and the 
SGML community choose another, ISO-originated choice, XML dies.

Len Bullard
Received on Monday, 11 November 1996 00:19:45 EST

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