OmniMark: Free no more
19:44, 22 Jan 2001 UTC | Michael Smith

After making its OmniMark programming language available for free more than a year ago, OmniMark Technologies has apparently done an about-face, stating at their website that "OmniMark no longer distributes free software."

In a thread on the omnimark-coan mailing list, OmniMark developer Harvey Thomas indicates that after requesting clarification of the website statement, he received the following reply from OmniMark VP for technology John McFadden: assured that having given it our very best try, and having received insufficient support from our user base, free is no longer in our corporate vocabulary.

Available for more than ten years, the OmniMark programming language has become widely used for SGML and XML transformation and processing tasks, finding a particular niche in the so-called "N-Converter" tool category -- that is, as a tool for converting non-SGML/XML data (for example, plain text and word-processing formats) into SGML/XML.

Despite McFadden's statement about "insufficient support" from users, OmniMark in fact seems to have an unusually loyal, committed, and evangelical user base. It's common to see mailing list postings extolling the virtues of OmniMark relative to other transformation alternatives such as Perl or XSLT -- for example, describing the relative ease with which a certain transformation task can be performed using OmniMark.

The return of OmniMark to not-freely-available status may help to make alternative utilities such as Balise more attractive to developers. As a recent xmlhack story indicates, it was announced at XML Europe 2000 that Balise will (eventually) be distributed under an open-source license. Since the announcement, however, there has been no further news regarding Balise, though the Step GmbH website contains the following statement:

The Balise Software will be overtaken by the Step GmbH and will be provided free of charge shortly. For any further information please contact us at

Related story:

Re: OmniMark: Free no more (Peter Flynn - 20:39, 23 Jan 2001)

I can well understand their withdrawing the free engine. It was a generous gesture but I think they misread the market. They provide other modules like an IDE and libraries for the developers of embedded systems, but I don't think they appreciated how much of their support (read: business) came from people wanting just the commandline engine, which is the bit they made free.

The problem is that their pricing structure (pre-free) didn't allow for the critical academic sector, which is the place they would find their strongest advocates. By making it unaffordable to research projects on a budget (who are often happy to give them publicity), they ensured that upcoming graduates will never now see or be able to use their software.

Omnimark was (and I assume still is) expensive but incredibly powerful, and therefore good value and a worthwhile business investment. Making the engine free was a nice idea, but took too much of their market. If instead they would listen to their users, and provide a pricing structure that was attractive instead of repellent, I for one would be able to put my mone where my mouth is. As it stands, we bought the old dongled PC version years ago, and when we wanted to upgrade, found the price had risen by about 10-fold.

As I said, it's a fine product, but the quirky and idiosyncratic marketing makes it a hard company to deal with. They have a strange bee-in-the-bonnet reluctance to add some very specific features which have been requested for years which would bring it into line with industry norms.

Balise and SGMLC are different, being based on C syntax. Omnimark is a 4GL and a favourite with non-C programmers. If they would only grasp that there are potential customers who actually _want_ to give them an affordable sum for the software, they have the potential to wipe the floor with the competition.


Re: OmniMark: Free no more (jakob - 12:58, 23 Jan 2001)

however, if you enter "download" in the search box on the top of the page, the result list will contain an entry pointing you to the following page

which appears to be the page from where you can _still_ download the software. they probably just forgot to take down this page ...

> Re: OmniMark: Free no more (Jack Rugh - 15:28, 23 Jan 2001)
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