W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > xml-uri@w3.org > May 2000

Web Architecture, 'XML Autonomy'

From: Simon St.Laurent <simonstl@simonstl.com>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2000 09:46:33 -0400
Message-Id: <200005241344.JAA25755@hesketh.net>
To: <xml-uri@w3.org>
At 11:58 AM 5/23/00 -0400, Tim Berners-Lee wrote:
>It is a constraint for an individual to be in a group.  It is a constraint
>for
>a group to be in a wider group.  Just as it is not acceptable for a
>person in a group to simply make a statement and refuse to discuss it,
>so it is unacceptable for XML to behave as though it was autonomous.

I don't think anyone was discussing 'autonomy' here - I think we were
discussing how best to layer semantic dreams on a syntactical standard.  At
the same time, it seems practical to recognize that XML is receiving much
wider use than any of the layers above it, and that those upper layers may
not all share identical needs.

>The "Web Architecture" is a set of invariants, a set of assumptions which
>one can distill from the decisions which have been made historically
>and which we find have to be assumed implicitly within the web
>development commuity.   My personal attempt represent these is
>at http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/Architecture and has been for 10 years.

If these are truly invariant, I'd suggest that they be clarified and moved
through the W3C process to Recommendation status.  

>The architecture evolves, of course. I brought this whole subject of how
>that should happen at the W3C Advisory Committee meeting.
>It is quite a tricky question.    The architecture is not unquestionable.
>But some of it is the assumption on which people joined the
>consortium.  WhatI would like is (current personal thinking) was
>an ethos in which some documents represened the best stab at
>capturing the nominal important invariants at any one point, and a
>group within W3C or near neighbors would be expected to be aware
>of it and, if it wanted to go outside it, to negotiate it in a wider context
>than just itself.  We could put together
>specific targetted discussions of experts around the area in question.
>(This has worked quite well in previous instances)

That could form the basis of such a process toward recommendation.  It
would also expose the 'Web architecture' to a much wider range of opinions,
and might identify some limitations as well as capabilities.  

In this particular discussion, I've found it impossible to question the Web
architecture itself, getting back answers about 'axioms' and such that seem
extraordinarily inappropriate if this is in fact a quest for consensus
among people who don't necessarily share those axioms.  At the same time,
the Web architecture doesn't clearly explain the interaction between syntax
and semantics that seems such a critical part of this debate.

I keep requesting that semantics be treated as a layer on top of syntax,
while you and Dan seem to be insisting that URI semantics be driven as
deeply into the syntax layer as possible.  To me this latter position seems
thoroughly inconsistent, but the 'axioms' of the Web Architecture appear to
provide different priorities.

Based on this discussion and outliers to it, I'd strongly suggest that the
W3C step back for a while to clarify both their basic architecture and the
approach to achieving it.  Alternatively, I'd suggest that clarification of
the relatively simple layering issue - what is the role of XML in the
semantic Web? - might be enough to get this wagon out of the mud.

Simon St.Laurent
XML Elements of Style / XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
Cookies / Sharing Bandwidth
http://www.simonstl.com
Received on Wednesday, 24 May 2000 09:44:38 UTC

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