Cleaning up XLink

by Bob DuCharme

Related link:

The W3C just announced "Extending XLink," a Working Group Note that "describes changes that could be incorporated into an XLink Version 1.1 specification to address usability, dependence on annotations provided by external grammars, and interoperability." It's short and makes a good beginning at what I see as the fundamental problem with moving the W3C's little-used linking standard forward: everyone agrees that XLink is too complicated and messy, and should be cut down to a leaner, more manageable core, but few agree on what to cut out and what to leave in. (It's a classic engineering problem, and anyone who appreciates it should be even more impressed with the effort that went into whittling down SGML into XML.) The new note addresses the simplest, most basic problems to clear out of XLink. I'd summarize them here, but the document is so short that if you're interested in linking at all you should take five minutes to read the whole thing yourself.

(One picky tech writer complaint: it assumes that all readers know what the acronym "IRI" refers to. Try a Google search on the term for a laugh—International Republican Institute? Information Resource, Inc.? International Research Institute for Climate Prediction? Those are just the first three hits, with the W3C/IETF meaning of the acronym currently showing up at number 48. The XLink note refers to Internationalized Resource Identifiers, a complement to URIs that reduces the dependence on ASCII.)


2005-01-28 18:39:12
One Small Step...
Kudos to Norm for another typically excellent job of editing. Overall, it's a pretty straightforward set:

1. Make simple XLinks an application-level default.


2. Reserve all attributes in the XLink namespace.

Uh, yeah. Is anybody actually abusing it this way?

3. Allow IRIs

Why not?

4. Provide Sample XML Schema and RELAX NG Grammars.

Non-normitive at that. A minor but welcome change.

Is it worth it? Probably not. An XLink 1.1 would probably not even fare as well as XML 1.1. The reasons for low adoption of XLink are not solved by any of these four things.


2005-02-01 09:55:43
In favor of taking the step
Thanks, Micah. I'm certainly going to argue in favor of producing a 1.1 spec. To my mind, the only technical obstacle to wider XLink adoption is solved by point 1 of the proposed changes.