What a buzz. The W3C recently announced that it's going to standardize XMLHttpRequest and build a declarative format for applications and user interfaces. All the good guys are commenting about it today saying "oh, that's cool", "yay excellent news", "superb future for the Web".

Well...

  • XUL is an old timer in the Web world. Netscape 6, released november 2000, was entirely in XUL. XAML was announced 2 years ago, but Internet Explorer has markup-based dialogs since IE4 ! And in 2005, whith dozens of Mozilla milestones in the wild, and almost in sync with MSIE7 release, the W3C finally discovers the whole browser world uses xml-based UI languages... The future W3C format will "(...) be based on an existing application/UI format, such as Mozilla's XUL, Microsoft's XAML, Macromedia's MXML or Laszlo Systems' LZX, provided the owners of the format are willing to contribute". Ok, but how the hell are Mozilla and Microsoft going to implement that ? Moving from their own format to that one ? Seriously ??? On the XUL side, there are HUNDREDS of xul-based apps or extensions. On the XAML side, Microsoft invested a lot of money and time on XAML and I don't see them drop it. Then a new UI xml-based format will be useful only for the next browser generation. Not going to happen tomorrow, guys, unless that new language has only minor differences with XUL or XAML.

    In remote apps (over the network), it could certainly be easier for a new unified standard UI language. But again, I don't see Mozilla, and certainly not Microsoft, implement rapidly yet another UI language.

  • XBL was submitted to W3C in february 2001. sXBL emerged from a joint work between the CSS WG and the SVG WG. I won't bet a single cookie on the long-term survival of sXBL outside of SVG, and we're heading towards an sXBL2, while Mozilla works on its own XBL2... It may eventually succeed ; but for the time being, I'm incredibly sceptical.

  • XMLHttpRequest standardization will probably be a fast and big success. It's now widely implemented and differences are minor. But I don't forget it's also an old timer - shipped with IE 5 - and there are thousands of Web apps based on it out there.

XUL is 7 years old, XBL is a 2001 W3C Note, XMLHttpRequest is 7 years old. The harsh comments those technologies faced at that time seem to have vanished in front of pragmatism, which is indeed a good thing. But it's late guys, too late, far too late...