Ben Langhinrichs

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VML vs. SVG - should Open XML revive a rejected standard?

Tue 25 Jul 2006, 02:10 PM



by Ben Langhinrichs
Rob Weir of IBM has an excellent blog (which I have mentioned before) called An Antic Disposition, which I enjoy for both the analysis and the clever use of language.  His latest post, Cum mortuis in lingua mortua discusses the obsolete VML (Vector Markup Language), which was rejected as a standard in 1998, and the current SVG, which was accepted as a standard in 2001, and which has gained fairly wide acceptance and maturity since then.  The relevance is that Microsoft has bundled the rejected VML proposal into their Office Open XML proposal.  As Rob says:
Now take a look at Chapter 23, VML, pages 3571-3795 (PDF pages 3669-3893). We see here 224 pages of "VML Reference Material", which appears to be a rehash of the 1999 VML Reference from MSDN, and in this form it hides itself in a 4,081-page OOXML specification, racing through Ecma and then straight into ISO. Is this right? Should a rejected standard from 1998, be fast-tracked to ISO over a successful, widely implemented alternative like SVG?
This is the kind of analysis which needs to be done on the Office Open XML format, and on the Open Document Format as well.  Just accepting either because of where it originated (Microsoft vs. OASIS) is not enough.  A standard should stand on its own, not be judged by its supporters alone (although obviously support for a standard is important as well).

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