Supporting plurality in standards: Scheme looks at a new direction

The Scheme Language Is to Be Split in Two

By Rick Jelliffe
August 23, 2009

This article by Abel Avram The Scheme Language Is to Be Split in Two caught my eye. Basically scripting needs a small language, while application programming needs a big language.

Now it is not of course the first time a standard has been split. XML is an example.And time will tell whether it is a fork or a layering/subset arrangement.

But I like the basic idea, that when there is a long-time standard with no shortage of goodwill, but we see a proliferation of dialects, then there is something wrong with the standard.

I often defend SGML (especially when it used as a bogeyman) but I certainly think that HTML represents a dialect that SGML should have been able to respond to. (In XML, ISO at least got it right and altered SGML to cope, which I suppose is because the XML bothered to talk to the SGML people as if they were colleagues not fossils and hicks.)

Mind you, I expect that there is cat-herding aspect: the people who write LISP systems are excited about features and exploration, otherwise they would presumably re-use an existing implementation. Nevertheless, for the people who say "XML is just S-expressions" we have the rejoinder, "Except that one XML system always recognizes the syntax of the XML from another system!" The fixity of syntax is key to XML but peripheral to S-expressions.

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