John Tigue, of DataChannel, was the first to attempt to develop an XML API collaboratively on the XML-DEV mailing list with his earlier XAPI-J.
The process of developing SAX itself started on Saturday 13 December 1997, mainly as a result the persistence of Peter Murray-Rust. Peter is the author of the free Java-based XML browser JUMBO, and after going through the headaches of supporting three different XML parsers with their own proprietary APIs, he insisted that parser writers should all support a common Java event-based API, which he code-named YAXPAPI (for Yet Another XML Parser API).
Peter initiated a discussion with Tim Bray (the author of
XML parser and one of the editors of the XML specification) and
David Megginson (the author of Microstar's Ælfred XML parser)
about coming up with a single, standard event-based API for XML
parsers. The design discussion took place publicly on the
David co-ordinated the discussion and wrote the proposal for the interface, together with its Java implementation. The first draft interface -- together with front-end drivers for the four major Java XML parsers -- was released on Monday 12 January 1998, one month less a day after the beginning of the discussion. This could be a record for an industry initiative (especially considering that SAX was finished under a declared state of emergency, during the worst ice storms in Canadian history, when much of Eastern Ontario and Quebec were without power).
The first draft of SAX received much attention, and over several months, users identified shortcomings and suggested improvements. Over a long period of discussions and pre-releases, the XML-DEV community developed SAX 1.0, which was released on Monday 11 May 1998, less than five months after SAX was first proposed.
Thank you to the following people for contributing to the initial discussion about the design of SAX. The current proposal contains many of their ideas and suggestions, though it does not match exactly what any one person wanted.