W3C SGML WG: The work begins

This message marks the official start of our group deliberations
regarding SGML simplification for Web use.

The ultimate goal of this effort is the creation of a form of SGML
that can be used to transmit documents (or document fragments) to a
future generation of Web browsers and similar Internet client
applications.  This SGML subset -- or derivative, or conformance
level, or application profile; we're not sure exactly what we're
aiming for yet -- is known by the working name of Extensible Markup
Language, or XML.

To ensure wide acceptance, it is generally agreed that XML must be
designed in such a way that the data stream delivered to a Web
application can be handled by a parser that can be constructed by any
competent computer science graduate.  It is also generally agreed that
it must retain the basic qualities of extensibility, validation,
structure, and standardization that make SGML powerful enough to use
for large-scale commercial publishing.  And there is a strong desire
to make XML compatible with existing SGML tools.

These general goals are clear enough, but the details are not easily
determined.  Our uncertainty has two levels: we're not sure where the
optimum balance is between SGML compatibility and ease of
implementation as a general goal, and we're not sure which specific
features of SGML should be retained in XML.  A number of people have
made specific proposals for SGML simplification, which will be placed
on the ERB archive for your consideration.  These proposals agree on
many points, but on others they vary considerably.

The orderly and rational process for designing XML would be to
determine our goals in advance and then design to meet those goals.
In preliminary discussions awaiting the formation of this W3C SGML
Working Group list, however, the Editorial Review Board found it
impossible to arrive at an exact statement of the goals independent of
a technical discussion of the solution.

We have decided, therefore, to put both levels of the problem before
the whole Working Group for a general discussion with a specific time
limit.  The discussion will begin with this message and continue for
approximately one month.  More precisely, this phase will come to an
end on Sunday evening, October 6.  At that time, the ERB, under the
guidance of an editor to be appointed from among its membership, will
take all the input generated by the Working Group discussion and form
an initial draft of the XML specification.  It is our goal to have
this draft available in time for review at a meeting of the Working
Group scheduled for Sunday evening, November 17 -- the evening before
the SGML 96 conference in Boston.

The top level of the discussion, addressing larger goals and the
question of SGML compatibility, can take as its starting point the
preliminary discussion draft of design principles to be found at


This high-level discussion is free to range as far into the questions
raised by the XML effort as necessary, but where possible it will be
helpful to relate points to specific clauses of the document referred
to above so that, in the end, we can arrive at a finished statement of
design principles.

To provide a framework for the discussion of specific features, the
ERB (chiefly Michael Sperberg-McQueen and Tim Bray) have prepared a
mechanism named "Features of ISO 8879 for Use in W3C Editorial Review
Board Discussions" and informally known as "the voting booth".  This
is a way to record and display the current state of your judgement,
and the judgement of the group as a whole, regarding the salient
features of ISO 8879.  You can find this document (collection of
forms) at


It is our hope that the "voting booth" will help focus the discussion
of XML details in several ways:

   * as a catalog of the salient features of 8879

   * as a summary of the already existing proposals for SGML
     simplification (proposals will be added to the feature matrix and
     to the archive as we obtain copies)

   * as a way to arrive at a quick consensus on features that do not
     need further discussion

   * as an indicator of current mood as the discussion progresses
     (you can change your vote as often as you want; only the last
     one counts)

   * as a lasting record of the collective wisdom of the SGML WG to
     guide the ERB in forming an XML specification

Please note in using the "voting booth" that you must enter the email
name that we have on record for you.  See the current list of WG
members at the end of this message if you are not sure about your
address-of-record.  Features will be subdivided into separately
votable pieces if it becomes clear in the course of discussion that
finer granularity is warranted.

Despite our informal name for it, the "vote" on features is not
binding in any sense but rather serves to indicate the collective
opinion of what we believe to be a representative and highly qualified
cross-section of the SGML community.  The final specification will not
be mechanically driven by its results, but will be produced as a
coherent design effort that uses your vote and the associated
discussion as critical input.

While we do ask that you begin with the larger goals addressed in
dd-1996-0001 before turning to the details of 8879, the month-long
debate that begins with this message is basically unmoderated.  The
only firm rule is that you must confine your comments to XML and not
wander off into unrelated subjects.  In particular, please resist the
temptation to start discussions related to linking, addressing, and
hypertext in general; these issues belong to a second phase of design
that will begin after the XML specification is completed.

The current roster of WG participants is given below.  Let the work



Chair: Jon Bosak                        jon.bosak@sun.com
W3C Contact: Dan Connolly               connolly@w3.org
Technical Lead: James Clark             jjc@jclark.com

SGML ERB (ex officio members of the WG):

Tim Bray, Textuality                    tbray@textuality.com
Steve DeRose, EBT                       sjd@ebt.com
Dave Hollander, HP                      dmh@hpsgml.fc.hp.com
Eliot Kimber, Passage Systems           kimber@passage.com
Tom Magliery, NCSA                      mag@ncsa.uiuc.edu
Eve Maler, ArborText                    elm@arbortext.com
Jean Paoli, Microsoft                   jeanpa@microsoft.com
Peter Sharpe, SoftQuad                  peter@sqwest.bc.ca
C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, U. of Illinois  U35395@UICVM.UIC.EDU

WG members who are not on the ERB:

Sharon Adler, EBT                       sca@ebt.com
Paula Angerstein, Texcel                paula@texcel.no
Todd Bauman, U. of Maryland             bbauma1@cs.umbc.edu
Anders Berglund, EBT                    alb@ebt.com
Karl Best, Novell                       kbest@novell.com
Michel Biezunski, High Text             michel@hightext.com
Harvey Bingham, SGML consultant         hbingham@acm.org
Steve Brown, InfoObjects                sbrown@cortland.com
Martin Bryan, SGML Centre               mtbryan@sgml.u-net.com
Mark Buckley, Microsoft                 mbuckley@microsoft.com
Len Bullard, Lockheed-Martin            cbullard@HiWAAY.net
Lou Burnard, Oxford University          lou@vax.ox.ac.uk
Steve Byrne, JavaSoft                   steve.byrne@sun.com
Kurt Conrad, Sagebrush Group            conrad@cbvcp.com
Keith Corbett, Harlequin                kmc@harlequin.com
Robin Cover                             robin@acadcomp.sil.org
Dave Durand, Boston University          dgd@cs.bu.edu
Joe English, CR Laboratories            jenglish@crl.com
Ralph Ferris, Fujitsu OSSI              ralph@ossi.com
Lee Fogal, Digital Equipment            fogal@zk3.dec.com
Todd Freter, Novell                     tfreter@novell.com
Matthew Fuchs, Disney Imagineering      matt@wdi.disney.com
Charles Goldfarb                        charles@sgmlsource.com
Paul Grosso, ArborText                  paul@arbortext.com
Eduardo Gutentag, SunSoft               eduardo@eng.sun.com
Hasse Haitto, Synex                     haitto@synex.se
John Iobst, Newspaper Assoc. of America iobsj@naa.org
Alan Karben, Wall Street Journal        karben@interactive.wsj.com
Debbie Lapeyre, Atlis                   dlapeyre@netcom.com
Megan MacMillan, BDM Technologies       megan@bdmtech.com
Murray Maloney, SoftQuad                murray@sq.com
James Mason, ORNL                       masonjd@ornl.gov
Alex Milowski, Copernican Solutions     sgml@winternet.com
Steve Newcombe, TechnoTeacher           srn@techno.com
Gavin Nicol, EBT                        gtn@ebt.com
Nancy Paisner, Hitachi                  nancy@hi.com
Dave Peterson, SGML Works               davep@acm.org
Paul Prescod, U. of Waterloo            papresco@calum.csclub.uwaterloo.ca
Lynne Price, SGML consultant            lprice@ix.netcom.com
Liam Quin, SoftQuad                     lee@sq.com
Arjun Ray, Q2-II                        aray@nmds.com
Bill Smith, SunSoft                     bill.smith@sun.com
Bob Stayton, SCO                        bobs@sco.com
Robert Streich, Schlumberger            streich@slb.com
Jeff Suttor, SunSoft                    jeff.suttor@sun.com
James Tauber, U. of Western Australia   jtauber@library.uwa.edu.au
Wayne Taylor, Novell                    wtaylor@novell.com
Henry Thompson, U. of Edinburgh		ht@cogsci.ed.ac.uk
Sam Wilmott, OmniMark                   s.wilmott@omnimark.com
Chris Wilson, Microsoft                 cwilso@microsoft.com
Wayne Wohler, IBM                       wohler@vnet.ibm.com
Lauren Wood, SoftQuad                   lauren@sqwest.bc.ca