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Dropping the Normative Reference to SGML (was: I-D ACTION..)

From: Arjun Ray <aray@q2.net>
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1999 06:29:30 -0400 (EDT)
To: www-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.991006064625.29285A-100000@mail.q2.net>


On Tue, 5 Oct 1999, Larry Masinter wrote:

> > The one really important fixing it needs is to drop all normative
> > references to ISO8879. [...]  
> 
> I can note in the revision of the 'text/html' document that current
> practice on the Internet includes much non-compliant behavior, and
> that implementors must be prepared to be "bug-compatible" with popular
> browsers in order to work with many HTML documents on the net.
> 
> I don't think this reduces the value of specifying what 'text/html'
> *should* be, although I agree it makes implementation hard.

There's a further problem here.  Whatever text/html should be, it can't be
a conforming SGML application.  There's a bunch of stuff in the spec that
hides behind the fig-leaf of "application convention", an euphemism that's
needed *only* to reconcile what is essentially ad hoc practice with SGML
requirements.  

But there's more.  Clause 15 of ISO 8879 deals with Conformance.

: 15.2. Conforming SGML Application
: If an SGML application meets the requirements of this sub-clause it
: is a conforming SGML application.
: 
: 15.2.1 Application Conventions
: A conforming SGML application's conventions can affect only areas that
: are left open to specification by applications.
: NOTE - Some examples are: naming conventions for elements and entities,
: or a content convention that data characters not in the syntax-reference
: character set always be entered by references rather than directly.
:
: 15.2.2 Conformance of Documents
: A conforming SGML application shall require its documents to be
: conforming SGML documents, and shall not prohibit any markup that this
: International Standard would allow in such documents.
: NOTE - For example, an application convention could recommend that only
: certain minimization functions be used, but could not prohibit the use
: of other functions if they are allowed by the formal specification.

Going past the handwaving, the plain intent of Section 7 in the 4.01 spec
is to disallow internal subsets.  This "application convention" has been
in place since RFC 1866 (earlier I cited a usenet post by Dan Connolly
specifically emphasizing this point.)  However, since ISO 8879 does not
afford applications the leeway to prohibit internal subsets, it follows
that the letter of the HTML spec automatically disentitles it to be a
conforming SGML application.  Consequently, the assertion in the Abstract
section at the beginning:

| HTML 4.01 is an SGML application conforming to International Standard
| ISO 8879 -- Standard Generalized Markup Language [ISO8879].

is insupportable.

The normative reference *must* go.


Arjun
Received on Wednesday, 6 October 1999 06:39:57 GMT

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