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Towards XML 2.0

  • From: Elliotte Rusty Harold <elharo@ibiblio.org>
  • To: XML Developers List <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Date: Sat, 4 Dec 2010 07:18:52 -0500

Towards XML 2.0
First for the record, I’m speaking only for myself, not my employer,
the W3C, Apple, Google, Microsoft, WWWAC, the DNRC, the NFL, etc.

I'd like to throw a hat in the ring. I think it's time to do XML 2.0,
and I think we should do it. Of course, that depends on what XML 2.0

XML 1.1 failed. Why? It broke compatibility with XML 1.0 while not
offering anyone any features they needed or wanted. It was not
synchronous with tools, parsers, or other specs like XML Schemas. This
may not have been crippling had anyone actually wanted XML 1.1, but no
one did. There was simply no reason for anyone to upgrade. By contrast
XML did succeed in replacing SGML because:

   1. It was compatible. It was a subset of SGML, not a superset or an
incompatible intersection (aside from a couple of very minor technical
points no one cared about in practice)
   2. It offered new features people actually wanted.
   3. It was simpler than what it replaced, not more complex.
   4. It put more information into the documents themselves. Documents
were more self-contained. You no longer needed to parse a DTD before
parsing a document.

To do better we have to fix these flaws. That is, XML 2.0 should be to
XML 1.0 as XML 1.0 was to SGML, not like XML 1.1 was to XML 1.0. That
is, it should be:

   1. Compatible with XML 1.0 without upgrading tools.
   2. Add new features lots of folks want (but without breaking
backwards compatibility).
   3. Simpler and more efficient.
   4. Put more information into the documents themselves. You no
longer need to parse a schema to find the types of elements.

These goals feel contradictory, but I plan to show they’re not; and
map out a path forward. You'll find the technical details at
http://cafe.elharo.com/xml/xml-2-0/ but those are just a straw man,
and I expect they will change in detail as we move forward. If the
basic goals sound right to you--backwards compatibility, new features,
simpler and more self-contained documents--then let me know. I'd like
to put together a small group of experienced and interested folks to
actually bang out a draft specification. If nothing else, it will give
us something to talk about at Balisage next year. :-)

Elliotte Rusty Harold

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