ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34N0793

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Information Technology --
Document Description and Processing Languages

TITLE: JTC1/SC34 Management Report And Business Plan for the JTC 1 Plenary, South Africa, November 2006
SOURCE: Dr. James David Mason
STATUS: Chairman's report
ACTION: For information of JTC1
DATE: 2006-10-19
DISTRIBUTION: SC34 and Liaisons
N0676 - 2005-11-16 - WG3 Recommendations of November 2005 Meeting - Atlanta, GA, USA
N0754resRev - 2006-06-13 - ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 Resolutions of May/June 2006 Meeting - Seoul, Korea
N0785 - 2006-08-22 - WG3 Meeting Notes, Montreal

Dr. James David Mason
(ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 Chairman)
Y-12 National Security Complex
Bldg. 9113, M.S. 8208
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-8208 U.S.A.
Telephone: +1 865 574-6973
Facsimile: +1 865 574-1896
Network: [email protected]

Mr. G. Ken Holman
(ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 Secretariat - Standards Council of Canada)
Crane Softwrights Ltd.
Box 266,
Telephone: +1 613 489-0999
Facsimile: +1 613 489-0995
Network: [email protected]


Period Covered: November 2005–October 2006

Submitted by: Dr. James David Mason, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 Chairman


SC34 maintains a near-real-time status report of all committee work, member information, calendar and project status for all members and interested parties to monitor the committee process. This information can be viewed at any time at:

Note: Because JTC1/SC34 is the successor organization to two previous bodies, JTC1/SC18/WG8 and JTC1/WG4, many of its projects and liaisons have extensive histories going back before the establishment of SC34.

1.1 Chairman's Remarks

SC34 is a small but well established committee with great continuity of work. The core projects in SC34/WG1 go back to before the organization of JTC1, and they are even more relevant to core activities in information technology than they were two dozen years ago when I first signed up to work in TC97/EGCLPT (Experts Group on Computer Languages for Processing Text). The World Wide Web, HTML, and XML have all grown out of the pioneering work SC34 and its predecessors, and we are still in the thick of that rapidly evolving and growing world of structured electronic documents.

SC34, using its own standards based on SGML, pioneered electronic document distribution in JTC1, and our use of electronic media has enabled us to remain effective in spite of being small. We have always been a group driven by the needs of our users, and our main external liaisons, ISUG and OASIS, are closely linked to users and to the structured-document industry. This closeness to our community has served SC34 WGs 1 and 3 well. SC34/WG2, however, has a problem with resources. Much of its recent work has been of interest primarily to the East-Asian language community (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean); while member bodies in this area have been quite supportive, we lack participation from Europe and the Americas.

SC34's work is inextricably tied to online activities, and all of SC34's current projects require open online access for their implemenation. This is particularly true for standards that have come to us from OASIS, where the source materials are already available online. Thus SC34's future success is dependent on JTC1 authorization for free online release of our standards.


To produce standards for languages and resources for the description and processing of compound and hypermedia documents, including:

Structure of Subcommittee

SC34/WG1 -- Markup Languages

Convenor: Mr. Martin Bryan (U.K.)

The activities of Working Group 1 include:

SC34/WG2 Information Presentation

Convenor: Dr. Yushi Komachi (Japan)

The activities of Working Group 2 include:

SC34/WG3 Information Association

Convenor: Mr. Steve Pepper (Norway)

The activities of Working Group 3 include:


For latest project lists and status, see and in particular for the current status matrix.

The current list of SC34 activities on the JTC1 Web site is found at

Note: An extensive commentary on SC34's projects appeared in previous versions of the Business Plan. It has been omitted from this edition because the most current information is available in the Secretariat's live online documentation found at the link above. The commentary from 2004 can be found in SC34 N534.


SC34 cooperates strongly with its user community. SC34 has long had a strong liaison with the International SGML/XML Users' Group, which regularly sends a delegation to SC34's meetings. (The SC34 Chairman is also the President of ISUG: Three years ago, OASIS (the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards,, an industry consortium working in the field of SGML, XML, electronic business, and structured graphics languages, opened another liaison with SC34. SC34 has close cooperation with the Topic Maps-related committees of OASIS. SC34 continues to work with OASIS in progressing their standard for the Open Document Format (ODF). In the past year, ECMA International has also requested liaison with SC34 for work on the Open Office XML propsal being processed in their TC45 on the basis of work submitted by Microsoft.

The XML effort began with heavy participation from SC34 experts. SC34 has worked with the W3C to ensure that XML is a well-defined subset of the SGML standard from which it is derived. SC34 believes the W3C is capable of establishing even stronger liaison. We are currently cooperating with a W3C activity to establish interchangability between Topic Maps and RDF (Resource Definition Framework). However, there remains a probability that the XML process, being pushed by large corporations that do not participate in the JTC1 activities, will run away from the ISO. In the absence of a means to make the ISO process, particularly the publication of standards, more appropriate to the WWW, the W3C is likely to become not only a competitor but a supplanter of the ISO and of JTC1 in particular.

SC34 has long had communication with other JTC1 and ISO groups. The Fonts project in SC34 was done in cooperation with SC2, and SC34 members contributed to ISO/IEC 10646. We have also enjoyed cooperation with TC184/SC4 in the joint project to harmonize STEP, SGML, and XML.SC34/WG2 is also in liaison with JTC1/SC29/WG11 on the Open Font Format, which is being issued as a dual-numberd standard ISO/IEC 14496-22 and ISO/IEC 9541-4.


SC34 has met twice (Atlant, November 2005; Seoul, April/May 2006) in the past year. SC34 has 9 declared P members (Canada, China, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, and United States) and 6 O members (Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, and Ireland), as well as three Category A external liaison bodies (SGML/XML Users' Group, OASIS, ECMA International). SC34 also has Category C liaison with the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C), though it is not active. SC34 also maintains liaison with JTC1/SC29, JTC1/SC32, JTC1/SC36, ISO TC184/SC4, and TC46. At the Seoul meeting, representatives were present from 9 national bodies (Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and three external liaison bodies (ISUG, OASIS, ECMA International). (The attendance roster from Atlanta is available at and from Seoul at

WGs 1 and 3 met in Montréal, Canada in August 2006.

The SC34 Secreteriat is held by the Standards Council of Canada. G. Ken Holman is the Secretariat Manager. SC34 Secretariat information is at

SC34 adopted fully electronic distribution of its documents several years ago; it has adopted ISO-HTML (a subset of W3C HTML 4.0) as its distribution format. The SC34 Secretariat at SCC has established an official WWW server for SC34 ( The Chairman also maintains a server that mirrors the Secretariat's server and also provides historical access to SC34, JTC1/WG4, and JTC1/SC18/WG8 documents ( The archival collection of papers from the time when JTC1/SC18/WG8 and its predecessors (back to TC97 EGCLPT) still distributed paper documents has been transferred to the Scholarly Technology Group at Brown University ( The U.S. Department of Energy, a primary sponsor of the work, maintains another set of paper archives at the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (

SC34 has online discussion of projects between meetings, using a controlled distribution. The Topic Maps project in WG3 has its own mailng list,, with archives at (There are also lists for TMQL at and for TMCL at, with archives at and

We expect that the next year will maintain the current momentum, sustaining the rapid development of our projects. Our continuing high level of participation this year has been gratifying.

2005–2006 Meetings

Regular meetings  
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.   November 2005
Seoul, Koriea   April/May 2006
WG meetings    
Montréal, Canada   August 2006

Future meetings planned for 2006–2007 are still being planned.

For the present, SC34 intends for its WGs to meet with the SC34 Plenary to facilitate cooperation among projects.


SC34's traditional marketplace was in technical documentation, in large-scale commercial publishing, particularly of reference works, and in several areas such as legal publishing and insurance. XML and HTML, derived from SC34's core standard SGML, are now acknowledged as core standards in all areas electronic communication. Attendance at the conferences sponsored by the IDEAlliance (formerly the Graphic Communications Association), which have been the historical forum for SGML activities as well as the location of most of SC34's meetings, reflects this growth of interest.

SC34 has been assigned responsibility for Fast-Track processing of ISO/IEC DIS 26300, Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0. This XML-based application was developed by OASIS and is receiving wide recognition and adoption. We are pleased to work with OASIS on this project.

On the one hand, SC34 feels good about the interest in its standards. On the other hand, the rapid growth of market demand and the growth of participation in the W3C activities rather than in JTC1, reflects a potential for the JTC1 process to become irrelevant. The old operating assumption of national standards bodies, that the sales of copies of standards would finance a large part of the process of standards development, rund contrary to current market forces. The market seems to require open, free access to standards, along the model employed by the W3C. Unless such a model is adopted rapidly in JTC1, market forces may drive standards adopters elsewhere.

Furthermore some of SC34's newest and most popular standards (e.g., Topic Maps) require that data related to the standards be openly available on the Internet or the standards will not work. If JTC1 expects use of such SC34 standards to grow, it will have to accept that the standards and related data exist on open Web sites.


In the past reporting year, SC34 has published a number of amendments, while progressing the development in all of our projects, including four about-to-be-finalized stanards. Interest remains active in project parts that are awaiting the completion of other projects and input from developments outside of JTC 1.

SC34's current status is reflected in its documents, notably the SC34 Secretariat's interim status report, which is kept up-to-date after any changes at This report is captured as a snapshot periodically for permanent record. The most recent record is in N757, available from the SC34 Web server. The resolutions of the Seoul meeting of SC34 are in N754Rev.


Adequate resources are only available in SC34 for work on SGML/XML and related standards, particularly HyTime and its derivative, Topic Maps. The highest level of activity is in the area of Topic Maps, followed closely by Document Schema Definition Languages.

SC34 continues to suffer from a lack of resources in the Fonts work. We currently have a project editor, the Convenor of WG2, who also works in the SGML area. There is other interest, particularly among the East Asian members, but little participation from Europe or the Americas. DSSSL has received some attention and is being revised. Only minimal maintenance is currently possible on this set of standards unless more resources are found.

Considering the situation of South and East Asian countries, WG2 convener frequently visited to the countries to discuss the issues, in particular, of Fonts and DSSSL library. Amendments to the DSSSL library (see SC34 N419) will includes comments provided by China, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Loas PDR, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Mongolia.


Not Applicable


At the April 2006 Plenary, SC34 had participation from Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, and United States, as well as three external liaison bodies, International SGML/XML Users' Group, OASIS, and ECMA. See above, Sect. 2.0.



SC34 expects additional work (particularly on models and support languages) to Topic Maps in the next year. Much more work in the area related to DSDL is expected.

WG2 has a new project on documenting the specification of document rendering systems (WD 24754), for which we hope to gain new participation.


SC34 feels it is a successful, if small SC. SC34 hopes to establish better liaisons with organizations like the W3C and OASIS.

SC34 is continuing its policy of holding its plenary meetings in conjunction with the XML conferences sponsored by the IDEAlliance (formerly GCA, Graphic Communications Association), which allows more people active in the XML industry to participate.

3.2.1 RISKS

The greatest risk for SC34's projects is that the rate of change in the user community, particularly in that part represented by the W3C, will cause the pace of development of industry application standards to exceed ISO's capacity to respond with prerequisite facilities in our base standards. Fortunately, SC34's working style, with its heavy emphasis on use of the Internet, has so far enabled us to keep pace. However, if a more open policy for the distribution of standards is not adopted, SC34 sees perhaps insurmountable difficulties in the future. (SC34's standards, particularly Topic Maps, DSDL, and the new project on ODF, all depend on having free online access to the code that is at the core of the normative content.)


The world of XML presents great opportunities for the standards that have grown from the SGML base. SC34 is particularly happy to work with OASIS because both share origins in the world that brought forth SGML. We have already used OASIS materials (RELAX NG) in DSDL, and we are looking forward to progressing ODF, now ISO/IEC 26300. Taking advantage of these opportunities may, however, require rapid, radical changes in ISO's approach to making standards accessible on the Internet.


SC34 feels that its current emphasis on SGML/XML and schema languages, on projects to support Topic Maps, and work derived from these standards is appropriate and that it has sufficient resources for that work. Additional resources would also make it possible to do more than the current minimal level of maintenance on the Fonts and DSSSL standards.

Progression of the SGML/XML-related part of SC34's program will largely depend on JTC1's policies on Internet distribution of its standards. Without free distribution online, this portion of SC34's work continues to be in jeapordy of moving out of JTC1 and into other organizations.