Monday, December 11, 2006

What started it all...

I first blogged about XML a while ago and started to catch grief about this unpopular point of view. I've been defending it more and more over the past few months. Yesterday I was on a panel with Steve Gillmor who has an initiative entitled "Attention.xml", so naturally he wanted to give me grief about it as well.

Thus was born the idea to create a blog devoted to what's wrong with XML. I'm not sure how much growth there will be in it, but (not surprisingly) the URL "" was available, so I jumped on it, shall we say.

Welcome to my rant.


  1. I really like your page, because it reflects the way I used to think few years ago when I was a "geek" more interested in technical concerns than in really practical concerns.

    You are right in your writings, XML technically "sucks": it's slow and complex... technically speaking.

    But "practically" speaking, it's one of the most useful things ever created, it allows and standard format for representing information, what is really important in this "Babel" world. XML is great because it was not designed from the "technical perfection" point of view, but from the "human benefit" poitn of view.

    I hope XML guys read this page and take notes in order to improve the "sucking" XML to make it "lovely" even to techies, who think technical perfection is most important than the benefit than - even imperfect things - bring to normal humans.

    1. As you may discern as you read through this blog, I believe the opposite: that the ways in which XML sucks are mostly pragmatics, and everyday use. It was designed in a theoretical way, but the fact that, for example, you can't use the "<" symbol in an XML file and it doesn't have any escape mechanism, is a practical pain in the butt.

  2. I'm only sorry that you beat me to the domain name. I work in a large tech doc group and we have been trying to cram this square peg into a round hole for several years now.

    When we bought in to XML as an authoring format, we were promissed several things:
    1) The writer will be free from spending time on format and can focus on creating content. -However, when the output looks like crap, who gets to clean it up? All XML did was make it virtually impossible for the writer to fix the output.
    2) Write once and output to any format - Sure, if you pay a vendor or consultant to transform your output into online help they'll do it. Also, instead of really good output you end up with a lot or really mediocre output.
    3) Anyone can read XML - True, they just can't author in it. We have actually had to convert documents from XML to Word so outsource people could work on them. No, I'm not kidding.
    4) It's cheaper - The authoring editors cost just as much as non-XML alternatives, you have to pay to create stylesheets or have someone do them in house. Then, if you have a CMS there goes $250k and you have to pay yearly maintenance. Oh, and graphics support is terrible, so you'll probably have to buy new graphics creation tools to make it work.
    5) You can save thousands through re-use - A good theory, but I haven't seen it. We had reuse before too, we called it cut'n'paste and conditional content. XML has that too, it is just much harder to use and breaks all the time.

    My hope is that one day XML will become as easy to use as notepad. I don't understand why so few people are willing to admint that we have been sold a bill of goods by tool vendors and industry consultants.

    This blog is a good start. Stand up people! If you think XML sucks, you're right.

  3. I would like to bring your attention to my data-oriented language Harpoon, which has been created as an XML-alternative for data, not text documents:

    I will be grateful for any comments.