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XSLT and the 80/20 point (was RE: Tim Bray on "Which Technologies Matter


80 20 point
Mike Champion wrote:
> Are there any successful technologies that didn't hit an 80/20 point that
> succeeded because of management, investor, programmer, early
> implementation,
> or military support?  The only examples I can think of are Windows, C++,
> and XSLT.  Windows didn't have any competition, C++ immediately attracted
> competitors that quite successfully attacked it at the 80/20 point, and
> XSLT's 80/20 point is what people actually use.

I know that identifying the 80/20 point is a subjective endeavor, but I
don't think your implicit assertion that XSLT 1.0 did not hit an 80/20 point
should go unchallenged. I think one of the criteria for hitting an 80/20
point is the clear exclusion of things, even obvious things, that would be
quite useful. On the other hand, difficulty of comprehension should not be a
criterion. XSLT is a difficult language, because its most powerful
mechanism--template rules--is new and unusual to many programmers, and
therefore hard to learn.

There are a number of obvious, powerful things such as user-defined
functions, RTF-node-set conversions, certain built-in functions, etc. that
were left out of the language in order to keep it small. When you consider,
for example, that XPath 1.0 includes a starts-with() function but not
ends-with(), it becomes pretty obvious that the bias of the language
designers was a quite conservative one.

Certainly early implementations profoundly contributed to XSLT's success.
But I also believe it has something to do with the size of the language.
Note that these two things may have some relationship! In addition, once
you've understood the most fundamental concept of XSLT (how template rules
work), it is a language that can be learned and comprehended in its
entirety.

Note that I'm specifically referring to XSLT/XPath 1.0. I'm not yet ready to
make the same claim about XPath 2.0 (whose specification currently consists
of over 10 times as many pages and 5 times as many functions as 1.0).

Evan


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