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The furore over PUBLIC



I feel obliged to address, at some level, the WG's concerns over the
continued but temporary absence of a non-URL persistent naming facility
in XML.  Yeah, it's a problem.  However, it must be noted that the Web,
which visibly, often painfully, suffers from the same problem, seems
to muddle along somehow.

Someone has suggested that our URLs should be URIs.  That's a good 
suggestion, and one we're looking at closely.  I'm made uncomfortable
in that URI's are kind of a speculative standard, just as, in 1986, were
SGML (good) and the OSI network stack (bad).

Many of us who voted, at the last gasp, against PUBLIC, really
wanted to vote for it.  But it came down to one issue: interoperability.
Everything else in XML is either an example of something that has
been proven to work (all the stuff from 8879, URLs, Unicode) or
something that is an obvious solution to an easily-comprehensible
problem.  The naming problem is fearfully hard, and there is just
no proven-to-work solution that we can steal.  We *think* we have, 
in XML, defined a syntax such that any processor should be able to 
read any document.

PUBLIC makes that go away.  Sorry, but you can't sweep it under the
rug, and I repeat: everything you can now put in an XML document has
a *single* straightforward interpretation such that implementations
should really interoperate first time, every time.  With PUBLIC this
is just not the case, and it was something that it was just too
painful to give up.

So, there are two ways out of the box:

1. Trot out a familiar, demonstrably implementable way to do lightweight
   solutions to the naming problem.  We don't, in XML, ever require 100%
   solutions, but we do need something that it seems like large segments 
   of the population will be ready to sign up for, or
2. Decide that the naming problem is just too hard to have any realistic
   short-term prospects for a single interoperable solution, but that
   naming is so valuable that we are willing to compromise our hard-won
   interoperability to buy it.

Personally, I think that #2 is more likely to happen than #1.

This story ain't over yet.

Cheers, Tim Bray
tbray@textuality.com http://www.textuality.com/ +1-604-708-9592


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