XML '99: Quotes from the Conference Floor

December 15, 1999

Lisa Rein

When asked what impressed them most about the conference, the XML'99 delegates were unanimous regarding some issues, yet quite diverse with regard to which technologies they thought stood out amongst the crowd.

XML's Widespread Acceptance Evident

All attendees were impressed by this year's turnout.

"The amount of people that have gathered here, the sheer numbers are overwhelming. I heard there were over 2,000 people here," DataChannel's CTO, Norbert Mikula, explained with disbelief. "It is certainly the largest XML gathering that I have ever seen."

"The interest in XML has grown so dramatically," commented JP Morgenthal, Chief Technology Officer at XML Solutions. "This show has attracted at least double the people it has in the past."

"The conference has been amazing in the number of people who are here, the diversity of interests. This is the first conference we're really seeing XML exploding into the future," predicted the inventor of CML (Chemical Markup Language), Peter Murray-Rust. "XML is now uncontrollable. It is going to take off in lots of different dimensions and good luck to all of them."

Murray-Rust also took notice of the fragmentation beginning to take place within the greater XML community. "It makes me feel like I certainly don't know what's going on in XML anymore. I'm going to be staying in the industries I understand, which are chemistry and pharmaceuticals."

"It was great to see the conference attendance double since last year. It shows just how important XML is becoming," explains Charles Goldfarb, the "father of markup languages" and inventor of SGML. "The sales of my Handbooks are another indicator. A year ago I noted that The SGML Handbook had sold 8,000 copies in eight years, while The XML Handbook had sold 8,000 copies in eight weeks. At this conference, the Second Edition of The XML Handbook was released: it has sold 8,000 copies in just eight days!"

Real Standards in Action

A number of new standards-based technologies materialized in more concrete form at XML '99 last week.

Although much speculation was going on about what W3C working group members thought about this or that, many of them were right on hand for comment. "Being able to ask questions made it possible to get a better picture of where the W3C was, and where the rest of the community was going," explained Christophe Angleraud, Space Maps System Manager for Spot Image in Toulouse, France. "It was also quite effective to be able to meet with all the vendors in a single place."

Angleraud and Francois Chahuneau (General Manager, Berger-Levrault in Paris, France) gave a presentation of Dimap, Spot Image's XML schema-defined vocabulary for expressing satellite metadata information.

"I was particularly excited by XSLT," remarked Fatdog's Howard Katz. "I hadn't paid a lot of attention previously, but I've now been fully caught up in the buzz and am starting to think of some creative ways of using XSLT to enhance my own software product. Pretty exciting stuff!"

"The conference had a wonderful spirit, and technology seems to be going in the right direction," expressed Nikita Ogievetsky, President of Cogitech, and an XML '99 conference speaker.

Ogievetsky presented his XML Web Template Library, an XSLT-based application for creating hybrid applications using componentized code libraries. The system enables the swapping of APIs, content, and presentation elements via a GUI-driven user interface. Ogievetsky demonstrated several different sample applications that had been assembled using his XML Web Template Library. Such combinations included ASP pages, JavaScript, ADO, CGI, Python, and DBI, among other loose couplings. He also demonstrated his Xity site map builder, which can be used to automatically generate XLink-based sitemaps from XSLT-based templates, seeing Topic Maps and XLink as a natural compliment to each other.

"I was especially excited by people's interest in Topic Maps," remarked Ogievetsky. "What a great beginning for the end of the century!"

Meanwhile, the Topic Map camp had an exciting announcement of its own to make: ISO/IEC 13250 has been adopted by ISO after a unanimous vote making the Topic Map standard (officially called ISO/IEC 13250:1999 Topic Maps) a done deal.

SVG Becoming a Reality

Demonstrations of the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format, both by itself and coupled with SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language), provided vivid examples of XLink in action, proving it to be very much alive and well.

Making its debut at the conference was SVG/SMIL-based "declarative animation," a way of declaring what is to be animated (presentation effect) rather than how exactly it is to be done (exact procedures, etc. used to create that presentation effect). This allows presentation editors to generate a description of all the pieces and timing for a presentation, independent of specific programming or scripting languages.

The model and syntax for declarative animation, using a combination of SVG and SMIL elements and attributes, will enable greater interoperability among presentation editing programs.

"All of the functionality is still defined in terms of XML DOM and CSS DOM, so it is all clear," explained Chris Lilley, W3C Graphics lead and SVG Chair. "You can also mix both declarative and script/program animation on the same graphic and define how all the different resources work together."

As some skeptics criticized the work of the XML Linking Working Group from afar, a new XPointer Working Draft emerged during the conference week. Although a new XLink Working Draft has not surfaced since July 1999, the SVG implementations demonstrated at the conference confirmed that the W3C's research and development of the XLink standard is very much alive.

Microsoft XML Schema Compliance

A strong rumor circulating at the conference was of a Microsoft pledge to trade in its own XDR (XML Data Reduced) schema syntax for that of the W3C's XML Schema Language once it has become a full-fledged W3C Recommendation.

"The news that Microsoft is going to get compliant is also big. I really hope they follow through," shared a wishful Howard Katz.

When Microsoft was contacted for further clarification regarding the issue, an official spokesperson explained that the XDR syntax was an earlier proposal to the W3C schema Working Group which supports things Microsoft feels are critical, such as data types. They also confirmed that, as soon as the W3C has a final schema recommendation, Microsoft will be moving to use it, and will provide a mechanical way to migrate existing XDR-based schemas to the final W3C syntax.