W3C XML activity grinds to a halt
09:35, 13 May 2000 UTC | Edd Dumbill

According to a W3C insider, the W3C is paralyzed by a problem with the Namespaces recommendation so difficult that work on XML specifications cannot proceed without its resolution.

The first public hint of the problem came during this week when the DOM Level 2 Candidate Recommendation was issued without a closing date set:

A coordination issue has arisen, which necessitates an extended Candidate Recommendation phase. It will end when the coordination issue is resolved

More information came as Mike Champion indicated that the issue affected not only the DOM, but other W3C specs as well. Lauren Wood, chair of the DOM Working Group, pointed out that the issue was indeed related to namespaces.

According to the anonymous poster, the problem at hand is that of relative URIs in namespaces and how to treat them. The Namespaces Recommendation says two namespaces are the same if they are matching strings, but also that they are URI references. These two ideas come into conflict when a relative URL is used, which has different meaning dependent on context.

There are several possible problems to the solution, however none of them are without conflict with existing specifications or software. The W3C is having enormous trouble deciding what to do.

Normally in such situations Tim Berners-Lee, the W3C's Director, would act as a final authority, but in this case he has decided to "make his input just like any other W3C member". This act, which may be due to political pressures and the extreme positions held on this issue by members of the XML Plenary, has caused the entire process to stall.

According to their message, the anonymous insider has revealed the difficulty so the XML-DEV community can apply pressure "wherever they can (over a beer or whatever) to get the mess cleaned up and the Working Drafts moved on."

Whatever the resolution, it is clear that the W3C needs to act quickly. The pressure applied by vendors in the marketing of such proposals as SOAP means that a slow-acting W3C would become irrelevant, and fail to achieve its goal of technical consensus on Web technologies.

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