July 11, 2004
@ 12:50 AM

In a post entitled Dare Obasanjo is raining on the W3C's parade, Mike Dierken responds to my recent post which asks Is the W3C Becoming Irrelevant? by writing

Either way the primary mechanism the W3C uses to produce technology specs is to take a bunch of contradictory and conflictiong proposals then have a bunch of career bureaucrats try to find some compromise that is a union of all the submitted specs

Damn those career bureaucrats that built XML. Or is it the SOAP design process that caused the grief? And where did that technology come from anyway?

My original post already described the specs that have caused grief and show the W3C is losing its way. I assume that Mike is trying to use XML 1.0 and SOAP 1.1 as counter examples to the trend I pointed out. Well first of all, XML 1.0 was a proposal to design a subset of SGML so by definition it could not suffer the same problems that face attempts to innovate by committee which have hampered the W3C in current times. Also when XML 1.0 was created it was much smaller and a majority of the participants in the subsetting of SGML had similar goals. As for SOAP 1.1, it isn't a W3C spec. SOAP 1.1 was created by Don Box, Dave Winer and a bunch of Microsoft and IBM folks and then submitted to the W3C as a W3C Note.

Of course, the W3C has created iterations of both specs (XML 1.1 & SOAP 1.2) which in both cases are backwards incompatible with the previous versions. I leave it as an excercise to the reader to decide if having backwards incompatible point releases of Web specifications is how one 'leads the Web to its full potential'.


Sunday, July 11, 2004 2:16:34 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I guess backwards incompatibility is a theme this decade, i.e. XML 1.1, SOAP 1.2 and Atom.
Sunday, July 11, 2004 4:47:30 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I believe Tim Bray once said (probably on xml-dev) that XML could not have happened under the formal W3C process that is now in place. At any rate, the people who did XML were the grizzled veterans of SGML who knew what really worked and didn't work. That's not how most W3C WG's operate today.

I'm not sure what is backward incompatible in SOAP 1.2 from SOAP 1.1. It was roughly the same group of people who worked on the WS-I profile that includes a subset of SOAP 1.1 and who drafted SOAP 1.2. The intention of SOAP 1.2 was definitely to clarify and tighten 1.1, and extend it to cover other HTTP methods than POST, and generally make it more independent of any particular underlying protocol rather than basing it solely on HTTP. SOAP has definitely evolved from a "simple object access protocol" to a fairly generic XML envelope header/body format and processing model, but I believe that most of SOAP 1.1 is still consistent with it.

Dare's characterization of the W3C process as "a bunch of career bureaucrats try to find some compromise that is a union of all the submitted spec" is a bit unfair, but has the ring of truth at its core. Sortof like Farenheit 9/11 I guess :-) It's unfair because the people involved are not "career bureaucrats", but right on the mark in saying that they try to find some compromise that is the union of all the submitted specs. That is the process that led to W3C DOM in a hard little nutshell. SOAP 1.2 is not so much a union of all submitted specs as an abstraction that covers all submitted use cases. That is a fair description of XQuery as well.

XML 1.1 is not completely backwards compatible with XML 1.0, but it is more compatible with Unicode. In this case, I think W3C did the right thing, but the world as a whole shows little sign of agreeing with me.

I don't know what to say about the W3C decisions (or avoidance of decisions) that led to the situation we are in with Dynamic HTML. The simple fact is that innovators came together at W3C to coordinate HTML/DOM core specs in the late '90s, and they don't anymore. Blame the HTML WG for not worrying about backwards compatibility, blame Tim Berners-Lee for focusing on the semantic web and fogetting about the real live web, blame Microsoft for losing interest once Netscape was toast, blame us all for accepting the situation, I don't think its productive to have this argument.

The productive discussion is on how to move ahead given todays realities: Rasie hell and shame W3C into picking up the various HTML/DHTML/DOM balls that it dropped? Ignore W3C and take all these balls to a new court? Do as the web services people have done and have the vendors do a lot of behind the scenes collaboration before submitting to W3C? Let innovation run wild for a few years and worry about standards later?
Mike Champion
Tuesday, July 13, 2004 7:30:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
As evidence, I offer the observation that the SOAP 1.1 Note is almost the same size as Part 0 (primer) of the SOAP 1.2 recomendation.

I've used SOAP 1.1 in many wierd and wonderful ways, and it's a nice model. I'd go so far as to defend it against claims that XML-RPC and (in some cases) REST-like HTTP+XML does a better job.

SOAP 1.2? No. Way. In. Hell. Am I even TOUCHING that spec.
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