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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Scenes from a Recommendation 1: Chicago, Cafe des Artistes

The XML spec became a W3C Recommendation ten years ago this week. Tim
Bray has posted some character sketches from the period; Eve Maler has
followed suit with some recollections (and an online version of
Maler/El Andaloussi! Woo hoo!); this has inspired me to think about
doing the same. What follows is the first in (what I hope will be) a
series of moments I remember from the creation of XML. If you look,
you can find a lot of stories about the beginning of XML. It surprised
me, at first, that they all seem to be different; it surprised me even
more to find some told in the first person by people whom I had not
suspected of being involved with XML at all. But I shouldn't have been
surprised. Scores or hundreds of people were involved in the development
of XML, thousands in its spread and uptake. In some sense, then, XML
will have had scores, or hundreds, or thousands of beginnings. Why
should I think I know about them all? Questions like 'How did X start?'
often mean not 'How did X start?' but 'How did you come to be involved
in X?' -- or, at least, that's how we answer them. The beginnings of XML?
I don't know. But I'll tell you what I do know; I know when I first
heard about it. The second WWW conference was in Chicago, in October
1994. With Bob Goldstein, one of my colleagues at the University of
Illinois at Chicago computer center, I had submitted a paper on how
the Web would achieve its true potential only once it had SGML
awareness ('HTML to the Max')...

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