Stop the XML hype, I want to get off

by Edd Dumbill

As editor of, I welcome the massive success XML has had. But things prized by the XML community -- openness and interoperability -- are getting swallowed up in a blaze of marketing hype. Is this the price of success, or something we can avoid?

Attendees at recent XML conferences have found their senses increasingly assaulted by marketing materials. I have no problem with this where actual products are concerned, but in some quarters it's becoming a problem with specifications themselves.

The XML industry is largely making a lot of stuff up as it goes along -- this is new ground. There's prior art to draw on, but everything naturally takes more than once-round-the-block to get right. This means that if a specification is heavily marketed by the corporations developing it, those actually working on it are under unfair pressure to deliver first time. Thus the essential ingredients of experimentation and learning from mistakes are removed from the equation.

Why am I writing this now? Just the other day I received a press release referring to UDDI as an "open standard". This was the final straw for me, bringing my irritation over the last 6 months to a head. It should be made clear that UDDI is neither open nor a standard. It's a specification being developed by a closed consortium of vendors. As XML has worked well and risen to fame on the back of open standards, it's obviously in vendors' interests to claim their technology as part of the same collection.

These vendors are perfectly free to develop a specification in such a way: some times this is a very efficient and effective way to develop one. But under no circumstances should they claim it's anything other than what it is.

Passing off behind-closed-doors specs as "open standards" has to stop. In the case of this press release, I wrote to the companies behind it and they graciously corrected the reference and reissued their release. My thanks to them, but this is indicative of a broader trend in the XML industry.

The end result of such activity is detrimental to all concerned: to the developers of such specs it gives them little room to maneuver, to the sponsors of such activities, it makes them look stupid when mistakes are made, and to the developer working with XML it only adds to the confusing matrix of specifications they must already concern themselves with.

Please stop the hype, I for one am not impressed.