Re: HTML should not be a file format, but an output format

Terje Norderhaug (
Sun, 23 Mar 1997 10:11:21 -0800

Message-Id: <af5b1e500c0210047ce9@[]>
Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 10:11:21 -0800
From: (Terje Norderhaug)
Subject: Re: HTML should not be a file format, but an output format
Cc: Steven Champeon <>, (F. E. Potts),

At 8:33 AM 3/23/97, Steven Champeon wrote:
>At 07:46 PM 3/22/97 -0700, F. E. Potts wrote:
>>SGML is a good storage medium, because it is a stable standard that has
>>the capability to be converted into "the markup language of the
>>moment".  One markup language of the moment is HTML 3.2, but HTML is a
>>moving target and must be treated as such.
>I must ask - what is SGML to you? I thought it was a standard for
>defining document types such as HTML. HTML, therefore, would be an
>instance of an SGML DTD. There is no such thing as ``tagging files
> in SGML'' apart from using a specific tagset.

Phrases like "tagging content in SGML" has a meaning that may not be
obvious for those not familiar with SGML and its philosophy. May be it is
timely to clear up discussions by specifying what is implied and assumed so
that those new to SGML get an understanding of what this is all about.

First, it means that the markup is following the syntax of the SGML
standard. That is, the tags and other markup constructions is distinguished
from the content and provided in such a way that any SGML savvy application
are able to extract the markup.

Second, the markup is valid SGML, and can be parsed to follow a definition
in SGML for how the various markup constructs can be combined into a
specific document.

Third, the markup of the content adheres to the philosphy of SGML in that
the tags are descriptive, avoiding "command tags" and other features of
more primitive coding formats.

Statements such as that SGML is a good storage medium that allow
reformatting to multiple formats typically implies that all these three
requirements are in place.

SGML can be used to extend the markup of a document as part of the document
itself, providing extreme flexibility in how it is marked up. Thus SGML is
more than just a standard to define document types.

-- Terje <>
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