W3C Agenda for XML
The original XML Working Group W3C in November 1996 drafted a 10-item list of goals for XML. They are all cast as imperatives: "shall be," "should be," "is to be." So perhaps we should refer to them as the X Commandments. That list is part of the actual XML specification.
The mission of the working group was not to develop yet another markup language. Instead its members were driven by two over-arching considerations:
A decision to build as much as possible on the experience, lessons learned, and large volume of content already produced with SGML.
A belief that the Internet would be the pervasive infrastructure for moving all electronic content.
True, SGML has not been widely embraced by the commercial world. But serious content providers everywhere have recognized in SGML the compelling notions of markup. All content is represented as plain text. Humans can read it. Even unsophisticated software can process it. And most important for the commercial world, any variety of computer can access it. By 1996 SGML represented a major publications technology investment for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and certain industries (aircraft in particular).
By 1996 the Internet had become the infrastructure that was bound to drive the delivery of electronic content technology. The same benefits that SGML had long demonstrated for easy dissemination now became crucial for the exploding content of the Internet.
But the various SGML publishing initiatives and the Internet had already made it clear that widespread success would depend more on human factors than on technology. This is amply demonstrated in the goals for the XML Working Group, the mechanisms for W3C's work, and the actual history of XML. People create content. And people must edit, share, and maintain that content.