"XML Father" leaves W3C for OASIS

February 29, 2000

Edd Dumbill

Jon Bosak, the original instigator of XML, today announced his departure from W3C processes to concentrate on his involvement with OASIS. In a keynote speech at the opening of the technical track of XTech 2000, Bosak explained that after many years of W3C XML involvement he felt it was critical to support OASIS in order to continue to preserve the openness of XML.

Telling delegates he was taking a leaf from Tim Berners-Lee's book, Bosak prefaced his speech as a "mild harangue." Indeed he had hard words for both proprietary e-commerce systems and also for the "complaining" elements of the developer community.

Bosak commenced by reminding delegates what XML was developed for, and used this as a base to demonstrate the critical point at which the XML world finds itself. Giving some insight into why Sun Microsystems (his employer) supported the XML effort, Bosak said that the purpose of XML's development was to keep the Web open and portable, not hostage to a particular vendor's proprietary standards. The deployment of XML, then, creates an open, distributed, information infrastructure.

One of the particular advantages of XML's open and standard nature highlighted by Bosak was the resultant advantage in standardized training: companies will be able to hire people trained in the open standards, rather than having the choice limited by scarce proprietary tools expertise.

Who Will Control E-Commerce?

The critical question posed by Bosak was "Who will control electronic commerce?" E-commerce is the "killer-app" for XML, and there are some crucial questions about how it will be implemented: how will buyers and sellers find each other? How are shared business semantics defined? And how does any of it get implemented outside of one vendor architecture?

To applause from some members of the audience, Bosak said that some people don't understand that e-commerce applications require shared agreements about data exchange above and beyond the document interchange level. Unless these higher layers (such as market and service discovery) are also incorporated in a standard, they will be dictated by vendor-specific application frameworks.

Outlining the differences between OASIS and the W3C, Bosak demonstrated why he thought OASIS was crucial to maintaining open agreements about shared XML interchange. He stated that, as the W3C is primarily a technology development organization, OASIS is left as really the sole organization dedicated to promoting interoperability by the development of standards (as opposed to technology). The ebXML effort was cited as the first example of such standardization processes.


Bosak threw out strong challenges to software vendors, asking them about interoperability with other vendors, freedom of choice of either business partner or vocabulary, and their involvement in XML standardization. If answers to any of these was "No," said Bosak, then vendors were part of the problem, not the solution.

Developers were not let off easily either. Saying that he was tired of the complaining from certain quarters, Bosak asked developers whether they participated in XML standardization or just complained about it. He urged developers to care about who dictated standards, and to get involved in the OASIS activities such as committee participation and conformance testing.

Bosak concluded with the assertion that individual participation will decide whether XML fulfills its original goal—to put control in the hands of the users. His belief is that OASIS is the body through which such individual participation will make the difference. The XML visionary's move from the W3C to OASIS demonstrates the strength of his conviction.

XML Father

At the end of Jon's speech, Dave Hollander presented him with a plaque giving him the official title of "XML Father." Although Bosak was at pains to acknowledge all those involved in the XML effort, it is clear that the Web in general, and open information interchange in particular, would be much poorer were it not for his vision and dedication.