XML: Not Evil, Just Smelly

Leaving the somewhat foaming nature of Nelson’s web presence behind, it is not at all clear that his W3J article is completely wrong (or right). Hence Rodriguez’ question to XML-DEV. The question was particularly timely as we are now all much older and wiser than in 1998, well aware of the failings of both ourselves and XML over the last six years.

XML’s official defender Liam Quin said of course it wasn’t all true. Eric van der Vlist in return offered the counterpoint that it wasn’t all false either.

I think that the issues he is raising are real ones but that either they’re not as important as he thought or we’ve learn[ed] to get used to them and work around them.

Rereading the Nelson article, I find myself in agreement with van der Vlist. The most resonant objection Nelson makes is that embedded markup tends to impose structures that don’t fit upon data: “What is not expressible sequentially and hierarchically is deemed to be nonexistent, inconceivable, evil, or mistaken.” There’s certainly enough empirical evidence of this happening with XML.

.. And what to make of Nelson himself? Bray sums up well: “Ted’s place in history is secure because he asked more important questions than just about anybody. I think he usually offered the wrong answers, but questions are more important.”