<taglines/> Anti-Awards 2001

January 2, 2002

Edd Dumbill

As expected, James Clark deservedly scooped up the "XML Cup" for contributions to the XML industry at XML 2001. To redress the balance in favor of the usual cynical sniping, I'm happy to present the <taglines/> Anti-Awards for 2001, intended to burst some overinflated XML bubbles. The panel of judges had a tough time making the final decisions, having been overwhelmed by the trickle of nominations received during the holiday season. If you feel your company, project, or consortium has been unfairly omitted from the prize winners, please let us know and amends will be made in next year's awards.

Most Egregiously Oversubscribed Industry Bandwagon

A strong contender for this gong was none other than XML itself. One reader complained that despite only being a small part of any computing solution, XML gets all the attention -- probably a disgruntled CORBA expert. There was, however, a clear and outright winner in this category: the much-hyped world of Web Services. Congratulations go in equal measure (like some conference keynotes) to Microsoft, IBM, and Sun.

Most Spectacular Incidence of Committee/Project In-fighting

This category was particularly strongly contested. After all, if you can't dissent, what's the point of being on a committee? Runners-up include the W3C Advisory Committee for the RAND/royalty-free patent licensing debate and the ebXML project for, well, just about everything. In the end, though, the judges decided to bend the rules of the category somewhat and give the award jointly to the inventors of the host of XML schema languages -- W3C XML Schema, RELAX, TREX, RELAX NG -- whose, shall we say, "interactions" have given the clearest signal of the end of the W3C's hegemony over XML.

Lazarus Award for Seemingly Doomed Yet Surprisingly Persistent Initiative

Hopeless causes are plentiful in the XML world, and some of them survive for longer than anyone could reasonable expect. With such rich pickings, you'd have thought nominees would abound. However, as most people tend to be in charge of at least one lost cause, readers were reluctant to cast the first stone. The judges, however, had no such reservations. Honorable mentions go to Cyc, Doug Lenat's project to describe, umm, everything, which seems to be having a renaissance of press coverage, and also to James Clark's two year old XSLT processor, XT, which despite Clark's explicit disowning of it, is still in use. With this in mind, Clark's recent condemnation of DTDs is expected to add at least another ten years to their life expectancy.

The winner in this category is the W3C's XLink specification. Conceived of at the same time as XML 1.0, this carrier of the recessive HyTime gene persistently refused to emerge from its embattled Working Group. Despite calls for the WG's membership to be dragged outside and disposed of, XLink's struggle into maturity in 2001 was met with myriad cries of "oh".

Most Technically Deficient Initiative Kept Alive by Marketing Dollars

One person's technical excellence is another's tangled mess of angle brackets, so the entrants in this category were judged more on their marketing aspect than a technical evaluation (this roughly translates to "don't sue us, it's only a joke".) An honorable mention goes to the Value Chain Markup Language (VCML), "an agreed-to business vocabulary that takes a vocabulary-based approach to B2B collaboration". If you like your mission-critical enterprise integration to be seamless, and your B2B collaboration to be end-to-end and peer-to-peer, it sounds like VCML's for you. The winner of this category is the much-vaunted UDDI, whose press-intensive launch depleted entire rain forests, yet somehow failed to produce anything of any use whatever. The sheer momentum of the bandwagon has meant a UDDI 2 release was required to fix up the ailing specification -- a possible contender for next year's awards.

Best Use of Acronyms in XML Initiative

A star has faded from the XML acronym world since the DESSERT recipe DTD got imaginatively renamed RecipeML(TM), but the web services world provides new hope. Microsoft has a particularly strong talent for fun acronyms, proving they are Real Nice People after all and not at like those dull guys from Sun with their JAJAs (Just Another Java API). Unfortunately Microsoft's DISCO is now a piece of ancient history, but they still provide a winner this year with ROPE, the remote-object technology for SOAP. Soap on a rope, geddit? Never mind.

Most Inappropriate Use of XML

Several readers were rather aggressively opposed to the new W3C Recommendations SVG and XSL-FO and nominated them as winners in this category. Perhaps if the category was named "Most Cunning Use of XML as a Trojan Horse," the judges might agree, but SVG and XSL-FO remain <taglines/> darlings for the time being. The W3C doesn't go away empty-handed from this category, however: the award goes to RDF, a syntax so mangled that its prime advocates have invented a non-XML syntax for it just to make it usable. (Judges' note: if anyone had actually been able to understand it properly, an XML serialization of the XML Infoset would have easily won this category.)

Most Liberal Interpretation of Specifications in an Implementation

In a buzzword-crazy industry there's a strong temptation to do just enough to add another acronym onto your marketing checklist. In that vein, there was no shortage of potential entrants for this award. Several correspondents felt rather strongly about Microsoft products, with notable mentions for Microsoft Office's "XML support". Rather more innovative in the judges' opinion, however, is which, not to be outdone by getting to the dot-com domain name first, introduces the "eXtensible Markup Meta Language, sometimes called XML." You probably can't be more liberal than that!

HyTime Award for Specifications with Secret Hidden Powers

This category is also particularly hotly contested. Brave runners up, with powers so secret nobody's quite figured them out yet, include Dave Winer's OPML (following on the success of XML-RPC, OPML is going to be Winer's Big Thing for 2002) and Topic Maps, the darling of many a recent markup conference -- they will change the world, honest. Changing the world is, in all seriousness, the aim of the winner of this category: HumanML. The HumanML project intends to bring an end to global misunderstanding by providing encoding for "emotions, physical descriptors, proxemics, kinesics, haptics, intentions, and attitude". Perhaps they should start by enforcing global usage of the <title> tag in HTML documents, a hard enough task.

Bluestone Award for Aggressive Press Releasing

Any editor's email box is crammed with the latest information that other people want them to know, and this award category is an indulgence for the hours wasted by your editor sifting out the chaff from the chaff. The award is named in honor of the company who, had these awards been made in 2000, would have won by a wide margin: one easy way to tell it was a Monday used to be the regular arrival of a couple of press releases from their earnest PR team. A consolation prize goes jointly to the now defunct Camelot Communications and their rival conference company SYSCON, for the rather bitter war played out in public over the fate of the XML DevCon conferences. The outstanding winner in this category this year is VoiceGenie, which has at least four sparkling new news items on their VoiceXML products for me every week.

XML Conference Give-Away Most Unrelated to Product

There's always a scrabble for neat toys on every conference show floor, which all delegates promptly grab to give to their kids, honest. Top marks for innovation this year goes to the insulated beer-bottle holder which prevents your hands getting cold as you wobble around the show floor during the evening reception. Supplementary gongs go to the 36" fluorescent foam giraffes much in evidence earlier in 2001, but which seem to be losing out to razor scooters at the recent XML Asia Pacific.

Best Practical Use of the Semantic Web

Unfortunately this award must go without a recipient this year, as no nominations were received.


Also in <taglines/>

XML 2004: After Declaring Victory, What's Next?

An Old New Thing

Moving On, But Not So Far

XML at Five

Whither Web Services?

  • You'd be forgiven for hoping that since the cessation of internecine conflict in the Topic Maps world, interested users might get a rest from the advocacy and have a chance to figure out what topic maps have to offer. No such luck. Newly reunited, the TM folk seemed at XML 2001 to have reopened hostilities with the RDF world. For what feels like an age, we've been hearing that the TM and RDF folk just have to figure out what the relationship is between their two technologies. As that relationship is pretty plain even with only a basic understanding of each (TMs can be implemented as an application of RDF, if you add in a bit of ontological fairy dust, something which Nikita Ogievetsky has demonstrated repeatedly) what we're really hearing is that the TM and RDF folk just have to figure out a way of declaring victory for both sides and then carry on just as they were. The sooner the better.

  • I was recently sent a copy of the new "Essential XML Quick Reference," by Aaron Skonnard and Martin Gudgin (one of's web services columnists). An excellent tome, it suffers only one significant flaw, the cover quote from Microsoft's Program Manager for XML in .NET: "If you are building XML-aware applications, attach this book to your utility belt. You'll need it." The mind boggles. Maybe belts for programming are a Microsoft thing.

  • My suggestion last month, that those wanting to search the W3C's site should use Google, turned out to be more than usually prescient. The consortium, lacking a search facility for its site, has now rectified the matter with a fine search facility, implemented by none other than ... Google.