XML, blockchains, and the strange shapes of progress

XML, blockchains, and the strange shapes of progress
Back in the early 2000s, XML was all the rage. An unusual evolution from
HTML, which itself was an evolution (devolution?) from SGML, XML was
supposed to be a backlash against complexity. SGML originally grew from the
publishing industry (for example, the original DocBook was an SGML language)
and had a bunch of flexible parser features intended so not-too-technical
writers could use it without really understanding
how tags worked. It also had a bunch of shortcuts: for example, there’s no
reason to close the last when opening a new , because
obviously you can’t have a chapter inside a chapter, and so on. SGML was a
bit of an organically-evolved mess, but it was a mess intended for humans. You
can see a lot of that legacy in HTML, which was arguably just a variant of
SGML for online publishing, minus a few features.
All that supposedly-human-friendly implicit behaviour became a real problem,
especially when it

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