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Thursday, February 21, 2008

XML 2.0? No, Seriously.

Maybe its madness to consider XML 2.0 seriously. The cost of deployment
would be significant. Simultaneously convincing a critical mass of
users to switch without turning the design process into a farce would
be very difficult. And yet, the alternatives look a little like madness
too. I found three topics on my desk simultaneously last week: (1) The
proposal to amend the character set of XML 1.0 identifiers by erratum.
(2) the proposal to deploy CURIEs, an awkward, confusing extension of
the QName concept. (3) A thread of discussion suggesting that we consider
allowing prefix undeclaration in Namespaces in XML 1.0. That's right 1.0.
We're in an odd place. XML has been more successful, and in more and
more different arenas, than could have been imagined. But... XML 1.0
is seriously broken in the area of internationalization, one of its
key strengths, because it hasn't kept pace with changes to Unicode.
QNames, originally designed as a way of creating qualified element
and attribute names have also been used in more and more different
arenas than could have been imagined. Unfortunately, the constraints
that make sense for XML element and attribute names, don't make sense,
are unacceptable, in many of the other arenas. And in XML, we learned
that it is sometimes useful to be able to take a namespace binding out
of scope. XML 1.1 addressed some of these concerns, but also introduced
backwards incompatibilities. Those incompatibilities seemed justified
at the time, although they seem so obviously unnecessary and foolish
now. In short, we botched our opportunity to fix the problem 'right'.
What to do? ... Perhaps, dare I say it, it is time to consider XML 2.0
instead. Trouble is, if XML 2.0 gets spun up as an open-ended design
exercise, it'll be crushed by the second-system effect. And if XML 2.0
gets spun up as 'only' a simplification of XML 1.0, it won't get any
traction. If XML 2.0 is to be a success, it has to offer enough in the
way of new functionality to convince people with successful XML 1.0
deployments (that's everyone, right?) that it's worth switching. At the
same time, it has to be about the same size and shape as XML 1.0 when
it's done or it'll be perceived as too big, too complicated, too much
work. With that in mind, here are some candidate requirements for XML
2.0... More Information

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