Is Syslog the Esperanto of the Internet?

flagI don’t have a lot of time to write this up but today on Twitter, I made what I thought was a fairly profound statement comparing the syslog protocol to the ‘international’ language of Esperanto – well, profound for 7am and before I finished my first cup of coffee. If you’re not sure what Esperanto is, Wikipedia has a great write up on the language here. To summarize (borrowing from Wikipedia):

Esperanto was created in the late 1870s and early 1880s by Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, an ophthalmologist of mixed cultural heritage from Bialystok, then part of the Russian Empire. According to Zamenhof, he created this language to foster harmony between people from different countries.

After some ten years of development, which Zamenhof spent translating literature into Esperanto as well as writing original prose and verse, the first book of Esperanto grammar was published in Warsaw in July 1887. The number of speakers grew rapidly over the next few decades, at first primarily in the Russian Empire and Eastern Europe, then in Western Europe, the Americas, China, and Japan. In the early years, speakers of Esperanto kept in contact primarily through correspondence and periodicals, but in 1905 the first world congress of Esperanto speakers was held in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. Since then world congresses have been held in different countries every year, except during the two World Wars. Since the Second World War, they have been attended by an average of over 2,000 and up to 6,000 people.

Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt, an expert on native-born Esperanto speakers, presented the following scheme to show the overall proportions of language capabilities within the Esperanto community:

  • 1,000 have Esperanto as their native language.
  • 10,000 speak it fluently.
  • 100,000 can use it actively.
  • 1,000,000 understand a large amount passively.
  • 10,000,000 have studied it to some extent at some time.

What’s interesting is how certain groups have grabbed hold of the language to bend it to their idea of the ‘perfect universal language’ (sound familiar? CEE, CEF, XDAS, et al, I’m looking at you!):

Though Esperanto itself has changed little since the publication of the Fundamento de Esperanto (Foundation of Esperanto), a number of reform projects have been proposed over the years, starting with Zamenhof’s proposals in 1894 and Ido in 1907. Several later constructed languages, such as Universal, were based on Esperanto.

Instead of trying to work together to make the current language (syslog) work, splinter ‘standards’ and efforts have formed in attempt to save time and effort. I understand that changing a standard is no small task but I don’t feel that enough people have tried to apply the needed pressure on the IETF to enact change (#OccupySyslog anyone?).

Another Wikipedia article gives a great overview of why the language failed as the de facto international language that its creator hoped it would become.

I believe that Esperanto still has a better chance at becoming the de facto international language than the syslog alternatives have of displacing the current standard.

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