Microsoft's Amusing Standards Stance

, Feb 24, 2007

Håkon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera, on office formats:

I’m no fan of either specification. Both are basically memory dumps with angle brackets around them. If forced to choose one, I’d pick the 700-page specification (ODF) over the 6,000-page specification (OOXML). But I think there is a better way.

I totally agree with this statement. But here’s another quote:

Less than a year after CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) became a W3C Recommendation, Microsoft co-submitted the competing XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language) to the World Wide Web Consortium. (One of the authors of that submission was Jean Paoli. It is unlikely that he did much of the technical work on XSL, and he was probably listed for political reasons. Similarly, he was listed as an editor of the XML specification after Microsoft made some phone calls.)

I have no idea whether this is revisionist history or the plain truth, but at least from today’s perspective, I find it hard to see XSL and CSS as competitive.

On February 24, 2007 5:14 PM, James Tauber said:

The second part about Paoli being listed as an editor of the XML spec after Microsoft made some calls is sort of true. He was involved in XML, but not as an editor. He was listed as an editor after Tim Bray (who was an editor) took a gig consulting for Netscape and Microsoft complained.

XSL was planned from the beginning of the XML effort to be for DSSSL what XML was for SGML. It certainly didn’t originate with Microsoft. Around 1998 and 1999, there was definitely a lot of fighting going on about XSL vs CSS. As the first implementor of XSL-FO I found myself in the middle of it. Remember that XSL = XSLT + XSL-FO and the original motivation for XSLT was simply as a way to describe how to create XSL-FO.

CSS and XSLT+XSL-FO definitely overlap. If you view XSLT on its own, then they aren’t really competitive (although CSS selectors now do some of things XPath can do). But Håkon is talking about XSL as a whole.

On February 24, 2007 5:59 PM, Stefan Tilkov said:

Thanks for the insights. Assuming the Paoli issue is correct (and I have no reason to doubt your words), I always wonder how people deal with this — wouldn’t self-respect forbid oneself to agree to this, i.e. shouldn’t Paoli have said “No, thank you”?

I remember advocating SGML+DSSSL a while before XML came into life, and I still think I liked DSSSL better than XSLT.