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Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful

Subject: Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful
From: "John E. Simpson" <simpson@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 10:34:50 -0400
xfo pdf
At 12:28 PM 4/17/99 +0200, Håkon Wium Lie wrote:
>John E. Simpson wrote:
> > Although the essay is well-written and cogently argued, the point of
> > "Formatting Objects considered harmful" itself rather falls apart if one
> > rejects the appeal of an FO-only document.
>True. If FO-only documents are so unappealing that they will not be
>used, there is no danger. Let's list the "unappealing" factors:
> - XFO documents are bigger than the XML/XTL source
> - XFO documents are more device-dependent than the XML/XTL source
> - XFO documents don't contain the semantics of the XML/XTL source

We agree about these.

>Now, if we replace "XFO" with "PDF" in the statements above, they are
>still true. So, is PDF so unappealing that noone wants to use it?
>Certainly, the use of PDF on the Web isn't that huge, but I suspect
>that's because PDF viewers integrate badly with browsers rather than
>authors finding PDF itself unappealing.
>So, the question to you becomes: do you think the people who promote
>and use PDF on the Web today will find the idea of XFO documents

The people who publish PDF on the Web today aren't to my mind any
differently motivated than those who publish Excel spreadsheets on the Web.
(1) They have a certain amount of confidence, misplaced or otherwise, that
viewers of their pages will have installed (or *can* install, maybe with
their browsers' help) appropriate plug-ins. (2a) Their application doesn't
require, or (2b) they themselves don't understand or care about the value
of, separation of form and content. (3) Tools exist for easily creating
that content.

I'm no psychologist but common sense says that if they've got reasons for
using PDF today they'll continue to do so. They may "like" formatting
objects for the same reasons that they "like" PDF; the reasons not to like
FO, which you spelled out so well above, will pretty much be the last nail
in the coffin as far as they're concerned. 

As for those who've never used either PDF or FOs, I still don't quite
understand why they'd *want* to use FOs alone. To grok XSL FOs, they've got
to grok XML itself. By the time they get that far, if they remain
determined to create FO castles in the air, as it were, neither we here nor
the W3C will be able to stop them. I don't want to expend any energy to
stop them. There won't be enough of them to worry about.

So I guess my main question is still, WHY would someone want to build
documents in an FO-only way? I still think this is a straw-man argument --
it attacks the spec for failing to legislate against an extremely unlikely
crime... a crime almost certain to be committed by no one but those on the
Dadaist fringe of content developers.

John E. Simpson            | The secret of eternal youth
simpson@xxxxxxxxxxx        | is arrested development.
http://www.flixml.org      |  -- Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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