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Is XML Becoming as Complex as SGML?
In 2001, Is XML Becoming as Complex as SGML? was published in interChange (Newsletter of the International SGML/XML User's Group) (vol. 7, No. 4). The text of the start of the article is reproduced below. Looking back over three years later, I think the viewpoint of this article has been vindicated because XML has not died or withered due to fears of its growing complexity.
Article Content Introduction
When the XML specification was first released, it was widely recognised that its most significant feature was its simplicity in comparison with SGML. This was not an accidental characteristic of the language, but the very reason for its existence. A number of design goals were set at the start of the design process that led to the development of the XML standard, including one that stated "It shall be easy to write programs which process XML Documents". At least two of the remaining nine rules reinforce this goal. The reason for placing such emphasis on this aspect of the language was to encourage the development of low-cost supporting tools (on the Web and elsewhere). I am not alone in believing that the popularity of XML today is testament to the success of this approach.
But many observers of the XML scene are convinced that XML is beginning to rival SGML in complexity, or have become concerned that this may happen soon. If so, then XML will soon lose its one natural advantage over SGML, and the whole XML project will be doomed to failure - or at least to irrelevance.
I do not share this pessimistic view. My arguments are that the critics are not comparing like with like, that the problem is being exaggerated, and that at least two significant points are being missed