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

F. E. Potts (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 11:29:48 -0700

Date: Mon, 24 Mar 1997 11:29:48 -0700
From: (F. E. Potts)
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: HTML should not be a file format, but an output format

At 08:50 AM 3/24/97 -0700, F. E. Potts wrote:
> > This is all very true, and the slowness is cause for real
> > frustration.  But in return for the slowness we get cross-platform
> > stability, and for me that is very important.  In fact, it is one
> > of the main reasons I work in SGML.

On Mon, 24 Mar 1997 09:28:12 -0700, Steven Champeon wrote:
> Cross-platform stability? Examples?

When I create a document set using SGML, it is in a non-proprietary
format.  That format can then be converted into any format I need.  I
am not dependent on the various proprietary vendors for my tools, and
the vendors cannot obsolete my documents with a model change.  IMO, it
is loony for a writer or artist or businessman to lock up their most
important data in some vendor's proprietary system.

That is what I mean by cross-platform stability.

> > The web is just one use of SGML, and at this time only supports
> > HTML.  But there is no chance that the web will drive SGML into
> > extinction, for SGML's uses are far broader than the web, and to
> > most governments and businesses, far more important.

> The Web supports any file format you wish to send over it. Whether
> the browsers support the formats sent is another question. Just
> because HTML is the universal carrier format doesn't mean that SGML
> is locked out. And Panorama has been around for years. Why is it not
> cross-platform yet? Why is it not stable enough to be useful yet?
> "Platform Availability
>      Windows 95 & NT
>     (Windows 3.xx, Macintosh and UNIX to follow)"

Sure, the web supports any file format you wish to send over it.
However, I am not part of the Windows 95 and NT communities, I am part
of the Unix community, and Panorama is not yet available for Unix
(though I was talking to Joe Davidson of SoftQuad last Friday, and he
indicated to me that the Unix version--HP-UX and Solaris--of Panorama
Publisher would become available by the end of this month).  As to the
Panorama viewer, it is still not in wide enough use to be of commercial

> > That is one of the beauties of SGML.  It essentially lies outside
> > the turf wars of companies like Netscape and Microsoft. :-)

> And yet this isolationist attitude is why Panorama and other tools
> are not yet available cross-platform - aloofness serves only to
> prevent widespread adoption.

It is not an "isolationist attitude."  Look over the vendors who are
backing the XML effort: just about everyone you can think of except for
good old "Tag Soup" Netscape is involved.  I suggest you take a look

if you don't believe serious efforts are being made to provide the web
with SGML.

> Businesses don't have time nor inclination to wait for promises to
> become realized. 

Businesses use SGML extensively: Jeppesen Sanderson, Sun Microsystems,
Microsoft, all the airlines, all major governments, the military, etc.
etc. etc.  Even very small businesses like mine use SGML.  Use of SGML
is extremely widespread, and growing rapidly.  You are only thinking of
the web and browser market, and XML is being designed to cover that.
And, no doubt, XML is just the beginning of serious web development.
Don't forget, the web is only a few years old at this time, and things
are moving rapidly (at web time, in fact :-).

Stick around for coming developments, for they are on their way.