XSL Competition Canceled

Date:     Fri, 18 Jun 1999 22:18:28 -0700 (PDT)
From:     Jon Bosak <bosak@boethius.eng.sun.com>
To:       xsl-list@mulberrytech.com
Cc:       xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
Subject:  XSL competition canceled

A few months ago, inspired by what Jade had done for the acceptance of DSSSL and for our understanding of multimedia page formatting, I attempted to jumpstart an effort to develop similar high-end formatting tools for XSL by proposing a two-part competition. One part was to have awarded a grant to encourage the development of XSL formatting capabilities in Mozilla, and one part was to have funded a contest whose prizes would be awarded to the persons or organizations that came up with the two best public-domain XSL print formatters. I regret to announce that we have had to cancel both parts of the competition.

Without going into the details, which at this point I would rather forget, suffice it to say that I seriously miscalculated the amount of money it would take to accomplish anything meaningful. In the case of the Mozilla grant, I radically underestimated the amount of development work it would take to implement any useful degree of XSL-level formatting in a high-performance, cross-platform, commercial online browser, so the planned award was not proportionate to the work required. And in the case of the print formatter contest, I failed to reckon with the costs of contest registration in various countries, which (I have come to learn) would have far exceeded the total amount available for the prizes themselves.

While I'm sad that this initiative didn't work out, I remain convinced that the DSSSL/XSL approach will eventually prevail. The advantages of a single tools and training infrastructure for formatting in all media are so compelling for producers, and the benefits of a common declarative format (XML+XSL) for exchanging logical and presentational semantics together across all publishing environments are so compelling for consumers, that I believe that the merits of this approach will eventually overcome the difficulty of implementation.

It has taken over a decade -- from the standardization of SGML in 1986 to the present -- for the widespread adoption of an open format for logical semantics; it may take that long again for the standardization of the presentational component in a way that preserves logical semantics by binding them to presentation rules rather than stripping them out before documents are distributed. But as long as it may take, I am, if anything, more convinced now than I was when I started working with tools based on this approach almost a decade ago that this is the right way to accomplish commercial publishing in multiple media, and I have faith that its technical advantages for publishers (which I know from direct experience) will eventually deliver its expressive capabilities and freedom from proprietary control to all users.

I hope that my present inability to raise the capital needed to promote the development of XSL formatting through direct payment will not discourage those who share my desire to see our industry delivered from proprietary publishing formats, but will rather serve to point up the crucial role to be played by software freely developed for the public good. It is to the developers of such liberation efforts as emacs, perl, Python, Java, and Linux that I look for the tools that will accomplish for publishing in multiple media what these are accomplishing for programming. If the money isn't there, perhaps it will be better to have done it for the glory.


 Jon Bosak, Online Information Technology Architect, Sun Microsystems
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