Re: HTML should not be a file format, but an output format

Terje Norderhaug (
Sun, 23 Mar 1997 12:07:24 -0800

Message-Id: <af5b37c6100210047879@[]>
Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 12:07:24 -0800
From: (Terje Norderhaug)
Subject: Re: HTML should not be a file format, but an output format
Cc: (F. E. Potts),,

At 10:45 AM 3/23/97, Steven Champeon wrote:
>At 10:11 AM 3/23/97 -0800, Terje Norderhaug wrote:
>>Phrases like "tagging content in SGML" has a meaning that may not be
>>obvious for those not familiar with SGML and its philosophy. May be it is
>>timely to clear up discussions by specifying what is implied and assumed so
>>that those new to SGML get an understanding of what this is all about.
>Thanks for clarifying this for us ;)

Yes, I know most on this list is quite familiar with the ideas behind SGML,
in which case you may take it as a reminder about the importance of
clarifying the assumptions to be able to convince the less advanced part of
the web community.

>I agree in spirit with your remarks about SGML as being more than a
>metalanguage for defining document types and their instances. However, I
>think that your assumption is that HTML cannot be considered a valid SGML
>application according to your view.

I did not say that. However, I can agree that HTML comes badly out if one
adhere to the view that descriptive markup is a requirement for a "true"
SGML application.

>SGML is like eastern conceptions of the Godhead - when SGML is instantiated
>in a given application, it is not true SGML. Although it may borrow power
>from its origins, it is always limited by the nature of the body it has
>chosen to inhabit ;^) Such is the way of ideal vs. real.

I agree. Adherence to SGML (requiring the three assumtions from my previous
mail) is to some extent an ideal that may pragmatically be deviated from in
real situations. I should know, I have to do such deviations myself on a
regular basis but recognizing the goal help to keep the direction.

>I miss these religious wars ;^) My life has been somewhat cheaper and
>more empty since I stopped reading comp.text.sgml...

Too much talk without an implementation has a questionable value. I am
happy to see an increasing number of developers getting to it and make the
ideas into real applications.

Education is still required though, so it is useful to bring the topic of
SGML up from time to time. The www-html mailing list is't really the place
for it though, I'd rather see more evangelism in places were there is a
need for education (such as for example the HTML Writers Guild mailing
lists or the Mac webmaster mailing lists to take two examples).

Companies that develop commercial applications tend to fullfill the needs
of an existing market instead of moving into something new with the
intention of building a market. Business/marketing strategists suggest this
as the safest way to make money, companies that are too innovative are
often not the ones to cash in.

The implications for SGML evangelism is that it is important to create a
market hungry for the advantages of SGML. Currently such a market is small,
making it hard to get into for developers interested in supporting SGML on
a larger scale. Even if implementations matters, evangelizing the SGML
advantage outside the technical community makes sense to create progress,
and would require that our assumtions are made clear.

-- Terje <>
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