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RE: How to make XML proprietary

From: Charles F. Munat <charles@munat.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 12:25:19 -0700
To: <jn@tommy.demon.co.uk>, <danro@microsoft.com>, <wai@tommy.demon.co.uk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NDBBKDNHDLCHIDEDGEICAECGCCAA.charles@munat.com>
I am happy to hear that Microsoft isn't trying to make XML proprietary
(yet). And I'm always happy to hear that a company is concerned about
accessibility. For Microsoft, the results have been a mixed bag, but
generally positive.

That said, I do have a few remarks to make about Dan Rogers rebuttal:

IMHO, it is a very carefully worded and clever reply, since it sounds great
but says nothing substantive.

I'm no expert on the current XML fuss, but even I can see that one of IBM's
points was that the BizTalk XML data definitions were copyrighted by
Microsoft. Where does Dan address this issue? Instead we get a carefully
worded explanation of what "proprietary" means. Worse, the defense of
proprietary is that it's just good capitalism.

Sigh. Frankly, capitalism is a pretty awful system. Not that I like many of
the alternatives currently in vogue, but I don't think that defending
something as normal to capitalism is equivalent to saying it's a good thing
for joe public.

So let's take a look at the other point that Dan ignores. According to IBM,
there is already an industry sponsored group, Oasis, working on this issue.
So why does Microsoft feel the need to establish its own group (with a
trademarked name, copyrighted definitions, etc.)?

The answer seems obvious: control. So let's stop pretending that that's not
an issue here. Defining proprietary narrowly so you can avoid sounding like
bad guys is not the same as being open and supportive of things that will
benefit the consumer and the industry in general (like the open source
movement, another Microsoft favorite).

Microsoft has developed BizTalk for one reason only: to benefit Microsoft.
Anyone who thinks that Microsoft (or IBM or any other TNC) is working for
the benefit of humanity is sadly deluded. Capitalism is about profit and
profit is about control (of property, of market share, etc.). It has nothing
to do with benefit to the consumer.

As consumers, however, we have an equal right to support what benefits us,
and to resist what does not. Frankly, I don't see how BizTalk benefits me
when there is already an industry-funded group doing the same sort of work,
but without the pro-Microsoft bent. I'm suspicious, and nothing Dan has said
has assuaged that suspicion. And when I consider Microsoft's record on
issues of control vs. benefit to the consumer, I feel even more suspicious.

So my comment to Dan is this: Spare me the Microsoft-as-humanitarian crap. I
know what Microsoft is getting out of this. Tell me what's in it for me.
What is it about BizTalk and Microsoft's approach to XML that's going to
benefit me in ways that Oasis won't?

Charles F. Munat
Seattle, Washington

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
Behalf Of John Nissen
Sent: Monday, October 18, 1999 7:45 AM
To: danro@microsoft.com; wai@tommy.demon.co.uk; w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Cc: jn@tommy.demon.co.uk
Subject: Re: How to make XML proprietary


Hi Dan,

Thanks for your very positive message, reproduced in full below.
I'm copying this to various people who are active on web accessibility
and the web access initiative interest group W3C-wai-ig, and who
may not have seen your message on the uaccess-l list.

I trust the WAI will take up your offer concerning accessible markup.
I anticipate that XML will be crucial for business on and off the web,
and hence access to XML will be crucial for employment of disabled
people in the years to come.

I hope we can extend this cooperation from Microsoft into the more
general office area, so that as XML gets used for Office 2000 and
subsequent products, we can tap into the process to ensure accessibility
considerations are taken fully into account.  Who would be the
best person in Microsoft to talk to about this?

Cheers,

John
--
In message <C35556591D34D111BB5600805F1961B917D0FA76@RED-MSG-47>
Dan Rogers writes:

>Hi John, Al,
>
>These are good points.  Let me address the "charges" of being proprietary
in
>our support of the XML standard, and then move on to accessibility.
>
>On being proprietary:
>If a company were to try and keep the way they used XML a trade secret
>(proprietary means not shared), they would come up with ways to encrypt the
>documents and to prevent anyone from finding out information about the
>contents of elements within the document, their purpose, etc.  Software
>development in a competitive environment incents all software vendors to
>define a proprietary lock-in strategy - just as every well functioning
>market incents the involved participants to do the same thing.  Grocery
>stores strive to get you hooked on being the store you shop in. Gasoline
>stations want you to think that their petrol will make your car run longer
>between servicing.  Cereal companies want you to believe that their
products
>are better tasting or more healthy for you than the competitors product.
>Even shipping agents want you to believe that their business formulae will
>get your package to the destination faster and cheaper.  Proprietary is a
>part of doing business in the capitalist world today.
>
>Standards come into play when groups of consumers want some sameness in
>their worlds or when governments decide that creating a uniform way of
>measuring something is a good thing.  Web standards like HTML and XML are
>created in a broader, people driven sense, and instead of defining
>consistent ways that currently different things can be made the same,
define
>ways that new things should work.  This forward looking view is one of the
>difficulties in software development today - the standards describe things
>that nobody does today (instead of standards like the kilogram that
>addressed the things that everyone was doing, but was done differently).
>
>To make something proprietary, it has to be popular, and it has to be
>protected from competition.  Microsoft does have some proprietary
>information - intellectual property as it is called - in our products.  The
>data structures and file formats that make up a Microsoft Word(tm) document
>file, for instance, has some undocumented bits in it.  These bits help the
>software do it's job, and provide our word processor with the popularity
>that it has.  We invented them, and in doing so have earned the right to
get
>a profit from that invention.  We keep those formats secret - even within
>Microsoft.  It's just like Kellogs and their Frosted Flakes(tm) with the
>secret formulae that Tony the Tiger guards.  It's proprietary, because
>that's what makes it special.  McDonalds hamburgers have a unique taste
that
>is carefully guarded within the chemist departments that make the flavours
>(these come from I.F.F. and other flavor manufacturers).  The processes via
>which the flavours are delivered to the consumer is secret, and not even
the
>fry chef knows how it works.
>
>So, if we were using XML in a secret and proprietary way, we would not
>publish the specifications for how we are doing that.  We would not share
>our schemas, and we would not want anyone sharing their schemas or using
any
>other than our own - used via some secret software tool that was the only
>thing you could use to get to that format.  The schemas that describe the
>documents are the thing that needs to be secret in order to use XML in a
>proprietary way.  Our library at www.biztalk.org, our specifications on the
>BizTalk Framework, our cross-industry, cross-government, cross-vendor
>steering committee that works on and approves changes to these
>specifications, all add up to "non-proprietary".
>
>Now, it is surprising that IBM is making statements like this.  In meetings
>with us (IBM is both a competitor and a partner), IBM has pledged support
>for the BizTalk Framework, and their global services group is developing a
>practice around same.  We invited IBM to be a member of the BizTalk
Steering
>Committee - but they declined.  Now I think I understand why.  Thank you
for
>bringing this information on IBM to my attention.  Perhaps the open nature
>of the work we are doing to promote XML take-off is threatening to some
>unrevealed IBM plans.
>
>The Microsoft goal in adopting, promoting and using XML is to extend our
>already rich set of cross platform interoperability features.  Adding to
the
>features of COMTI, SNA Server, and our HTML support across our products,
the
>goal is to make any system anywhere able to interoperate without the need
>for special software languages, special skills, or special development
>tools.  To that end, we have defined the BizTalk Framework and are building
>products that use it and support it. We are improving our products - making
>them more open, and responding to customer needs. IBM is more than welcome
>to take advantage of the work that went into this specification - even
>though they chose not to help create and advance it, and are simultaneously
>building a practice around it, and championing against it in public forums
>that Microsoft does not attend regularly.  Not having a speaker at XML One
>was a mistake in hind site.
>
>Regarding accessibility and XML.  I can see that document mark-up and using
>XML in web pages, with specific tags that are developed for use with
>accessibility software could be a tremendous benefit to those that have
>difficulty with non-assisted software.  Microsoft has some of the best
>accessibility features in our software, and I would be interested in
>following development of accessibility mark-up.  If schemas result, I will
>be most happy to help share and promote them via not only the
>www.biztalk.org library, but by championing support for same within
>Microsoft products.
>
>Best Regards,
>
>Dan Rogers
>Program Manager - www.biztalk.org
>Microsoft Corporation
>
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: jn@tommy.demon.co.uk [mailto:jn@tommy.demon.co.uk]
>Sent: Friday, October 08, 1999 9:37 AM
>To: uaccess-l@trace.wisc.edu
>Cc: Dan Rogers; jn@tommy.demon.co.uk
>Subject: Re: xml?[Fwd: News or idle rumor?]
>
>
>Thanks Al,
>
>I was going to reply to Dan about this very point.  I had wanted to draw
>attention to the accessibility community that XML is not the panaceia
>that it's sometimes claimed to be.  Too often in the past the
>accessibility people have arrived too late on the technology scene.
>We have to use what leverage we can - for example the ADA (American
>with Disability Act) is something that your government will take note
>of.  I am glad to here that W3C is "still engaged in vigorous debate"
>on the XML definition issue but I was unaware of it till now.
>And it would be great if you could help us Dan, as Al asks.
>
>I'm very reassured, Dan, that Microsoft is being open in their use
>of XML for Biztalk.  It was not the impression I had from the article
>I read, so please forgive me.  Let me quote from Computing
>(one of the two major weekly mags in UK) for 30th September, page 8:
>
>Headline:
>	"No single vendor should control web technology, says IBM"
>Banner headline:
>	"Microsoft 'threatens XML'"
>Text:
>	"Next week's XML One conference will hear a plea to keep the
>emerging web standard safe from Microsoft's clutches.
>	The call to arms will be delivered by Simon Phipps, IBM's
>XML evangelist, during his keynote speech.
>	'XML is the last pice of technology om the ebusiness platform,'
>says Phipps.
>	'It is very important for the future that we protect it from the
>control of any one vendor.'
>	Microsoft's Biztalk middleware is a major threat, according
>to Phipps.
>	XML is touted as a key ecommerce enabler which will allow
>organisations to share data, such as prices or part numbers, by
>describing it in a standard format.
>	Industry-funded body Oasis is hosting an online repository
>where companies can agree on and publish standardised XML
>descriptions for common data types.
>	However, Microsoft has launched a rival service regeristering
>XML data definitions for Biztalk.  The software giant retains the
>copyright for these definitions....  The company declined to say
>why it needs to hold copyright on Biztalk definitions..."
>
>Cheers,
>
>John
>--
>In message <199910071622.MAA18265@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net> Al Gilman
writes:
>
>>>-------- Original Message --------
>>>Subject: News or idle rumor?
>>>Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1999 14:48:11 -0700
>>>From: Dan Rogers <danro@microsoft.com>
>>>Reply-To: uaccess-l@trace.wisc.edu
>>>To: "'uaccess-l@trace.wisc.edu'" <uaccess-l@trace.wisc.edu>
>>>CC: "'jn@tommy.demon.co.uk'" <jn@tommy.demon.co.uk>
>>>
>>[snip]
>>>
>>>Point 3.  The writer of this incorrect missive states that Microsoft
>>>is using XML in a proprietary way.  This is patently rediculous.  How can
>>>you use the standard (W3C XML) in a proprietary way [?]
>>
>>The XML specification per se doesn't tell you enough about any document
>>written in XML to write a competent application processing that document.
>>It tells you some preliminaries enough to write a pre-processor module
>>in that Ap.
>
>>So it is perfectly possible to use XML in a way which is totally open or
>>effectively closed.  That is well understood in the XML community.  The
W3C
>is
>>still engaged in vigorous debate about just how to share the rest of what
>you
>>should know about a given XML application profile.
>>
>>This is not to argue that Microsoft is or is not using XML in their
>>applications in a way that is improper.  I just want to observe that the
>>established body of W3C Recommendations does leave room for worry.
>>
>>XML is not sufficient for open.
>>
>>Open is not necessary for accessible.
>>
>>For WAI purposes, proprietary vs. open is not the right issue to be homed
>>in on.
>>
>>What we are striving for in our dialogs between the WAI and the XML
>>activity in the W3C is to lay the foundations for universally-understood
>>methods of "graceful transformation" (see WCAG) for XML document content,
>>with sufficent markup and constraint infrastructure to support those.
>>
>>Dan, would you consider including in your "welcome to the library"
>>message to people who join the BizTalk service a note to the effect
>>that access for people with disabilities for XML applications is still
>>under development?  We really need a few more people who are actually
>>developing application profiles beyond just the DAISY digital talking
>>book involved to add a few grains of reality checking to the effort.
>>
>>Al

--
Access the word, access the world       Tel/fax +44 181 742 3170/8715
John Nissen                             Email to jn@tommy.demon.co.uk
Cloudworld Ltd., Chiswick, London, UK   http://www.tommy.demon.co.uk
Received on Monday, 18 October 1999 15:26:34 GMT

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