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Saturday, September 29, 2012



XML 1.0 is a 'Recommendation' of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Perhaps the most important web organisation, the W3C was founded in October 1994 "to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evaluation and ensure its interoperability" (W3C). An example of one of these protocols is HyperText Markup Language (HTML). It is this simple markup language that is the basis of web-publishing, and its success is synonymous with the Web itself. The creator of HTML, Tim Berners-Lee, known by many as 'the father of the Web', is the Director of this consortium. Given that HTML (in all its versions from 1.0 to 4.0) is a W3C Recommendation, one has a good idea of the importance of what the Consortium chooses to recommend. The W3C is as close to a governing body of the Web as one gets. When it talks, people listen.
The reason for the clout of this body becomes clear as soon as one takes a look at the list of its 'member organisations'. Big-name companies such as Microsoft, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Adobe all belong, as well as a whole host of internet-related organisations. Any company can join. They need only pay a fee to obtain membership and then they can take part in the creation of new standards. The remarkable feat of the W3C is that brings competing organisations together (Microsoft and Netscape being the obvious pair) in order to bring about industry-wide progress. Tim Bray (one of the editors of the XML specification) tells us, in Lourier & Bray, that "the premise [of the W3C] is you lock the key engineers in a room and you don't let them come out until they have agreement."
The forum for such discussions are the Working Groups, where initial ideas will be brought up. A successful idea will be formulated into a working draft, which is then submitted to the Director (Berners-Lee). If he considers the idea worthy he will declare it a 'Proposed Recommendation' and it is then forwarded to all member-organisations who then vote as to whether it should become an official Recommendation. They can register the following votes: unqualified approval, approval with comments, disapproval unless specified changes are made, or categorical disapproval. After votes have been cast, the idea may become an official Recommendation, become a working draft again, or be abandoned. In practice this process, and with it the refinement of a document, can take a great deal of time. So, have fun with XML.....................

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