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30.1. Background

The example at the beginning of this chapter highlights the limitations of HTML. HTML was designed specifically for displaying content in a browser, but isn't good for much else. When the creators of the Web needed a markup language that told browsers how to display web content, they used SGML guidelines to create HTML. SGML, Standard Generalized Markup Language, is a comprehensive set of syntax rules for marking up documents and data which has existed since the 1980s. It is the big kahuna of metalanguages! For information on SGML, including its history, see http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/general.html.

As the Web matured, it became clear that there was the need for more versatile markup languages. SGML provided a good model, but it was too vast and complex; it had many features that were unnecessary and wouldn't be used in the Web environment. XML is a simplified and reduced form of SGML, tailored just for the needs of sharing information over the Internet. It is powerful enough to describe data, but light enough to travel across the Web. Much of the credit for XML's creation can be attributed to Jon Bosak of Sun Microsystems, Inc., who started the W3C working group responsible for scaling down SGML to its portable, Web-friendly form.


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