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Re: History

  • From: Len Bullard <cbullard@h...>
  • To: Tim Bray <tbray@t...>
  • Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 19:17:30 -0600

re history
Tim Bray wrote:
> 
> So Len says that it only went over the top because Microsoft liked it.  Len
> is mostly wrong, but he's used to me saying that and sometimes I'm wrong
> when I do.

I am used to that.  Reasonable minds can disagree.  I think that without 
Microsoft's support, getting the XML WG to the finish line would have 
been more than difficult.  It wouldn't have happened.  Not then anyway.
 
> For the record.  By the end of 1995, anyone with half a brain could see that
> HTML was just not up to some of the jobs that people wanted to get done on
> the Web.  

Yes.  OTOH, the GenCode folks knew before then.  It was hard to get
people 
to realize that elegance and success don't always go to the ball
together.  
Some simple ideas go like a grassfire because they give that girl on TV 
who can't handle her VCR something she can handle. When Mikey likes it, 
he really likes it, but if a star sells it, it really sells.

> In parallel, some of us had been shouting at the SGML crowd from
> inside for years that SGML needed radical simplification.  I can remember
> like yesterday at the big SGML conference in 93 or 92 or so, standing around
> with Steve DeRose and Jean Paoli and Erik Naggum (most XMLers won't remember
> him) agreeing that we ought to do this.  But we didn't, then.

Yes.  In 1992, I was demonstrating a radical simplification of SGML in 
the IADS application which relied on.... stylesheets and a well-formed 
file all processed on a 386.    I know where de Rose was;  he was
selling 
Dynabook for 50k a pop.  We were giving away IADS.  You were selling 
relational databases then, right?  Can't remember.  The first time 
we met was in the hallway in Vancouver.  I was listening; you were 
angry.  You were right.

Sure, SGML needed simplifying.  Remember, in those days, 
the hypertext advocates were referred to as "the left wing lunatic 
fringe of SGML" by the 28001 committees.  It took a few more 
years of starvation for pony tails to come into vogue.

As for Erik?  He was holding up comp-text-sgml and fighting with 
anyone who would spar with him.  I do miss Erik.  Excellent wits.
 
> I got invited to join the original XML committee because at SGML/Europe
> in 1996 in Munich, I gave a closing keynote inviting the crowd to dispense
> with 80% of it.

So why do we have 80% of it there and more being asked for? 

> It is to Jon Bosak's immense credit that he (like many of us) not only
> saw the need for simplification but (unlike anyone else) went and hounded
> the W3C until it became less trouble for them to give him his committee than
> to keep on saying SGML was irrelevant.

Yep.  Jon mastered DSSSL.  I have to give him credit.  I gave up on
that.  
Too hard.
 
> Speaking as one of Jon's nominees I am naturally of the opinion that he
> couldn't have picked a better group, but I kinda think that any group of
> SGML veterans, some of whom had operated large web sites, would have done
> about as well.

Given the SIG and the WG in total, that was pretty much every SGMLer on 
the planet with a modem.  I would have more respect for the founders had 
they been more honest about what they had in mind.  On the other hand, 
with enough of the SGMLers in the crowd, it didn't get too far off
track.  
It did manage to pull ISO and the W3C closer and that was worth all the 
hassle.  In the years to come, a healthier and more productive
relationship 
between the inner and outer loops will benefit everyone.
 
> And then... First off, Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for Getting It way
> before many other allegedly smart industry leaders.  But there were a bunch
> of reasons, some of them accidents of history, why it went over the top.
> One of them was, people looked at it seriously because Microsoft was onside.
> They soon noticed that unlike a lot of other things Microsoft liked, it was
> unlikely to be something that Microsoft could control.

That was the beauty of it, and the one thing to be said in the defense
of 
MS.  They understood the price of supporting it, but they saw the
enormous 
advantage of getting as far as they could as fast as they 
could.  We can debate some what ifs, but we agree, they got out front 
first.
 
> Any simple explanation of XML's success is simply wrong.  Life, and the
> Web biz, are complicated.

No, there are just lots of points of views.  We express them here and 
let the press figure out a shorter more acceptable version.  Life and 
is simple:  duty, wealth, pleasure.  The web biz: paste .com on the 
end of the company name, then get venture capital and an IPO.  Seems 
to be working for Doonesbury.
 
> It was astounding; Jon and I and some of the others made a concentrated
> marketing effort starting at the end of 1996 and went shouting off in all
> directions about XML.  It was like hurling your entire weight against a
> locked door that turns out not to be there.  The world, more or less, said
> "yeah, OK".

Which is another way of saying, good timing.  Emergence works like
that.  
Like surfing, you only want to swim out as far as you can swim back, and 
always be in the power curve before you stand up.  Enjoy the ride.

len


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      • From: Tim Bray <tbray@t...>

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