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Re: HTML and XML

From: Michael(tm) Smith <mike@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 08:39:35 +0900
To: "Henry S. Thompson" <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>
Cc: Anne van Kesteren <annevk@opera.com>, David Orchard <orchard@pacificspirit.com>, Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>, www-tag@w3.org
Message-ID: <20090210233933.GH19732@sideshowbarker>

"Henry S. Thompson" <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>, 2009-02-10 20:26 +0000:

> But I think the world has already voted with its feet on the XML5
> question, in that there is a notable _lack_ of folk advocating it.

Regarding the world voting with its feet: As far as the Web goes
at least, it would seem that it's instead really been a matter of
the vast majority of content providers voting against XML/XHTML
completely and voting for HTML instead (by choosing to serve
non-WF HTML, and by choosing to serve XHTML as text/html so that
it gets processed by HTML parsers in browsers instead of by XML
parsers in browsers).

Anyway, in my world at least, there are plenty of people
advocating for a saner way to handle XML on the Web. They may not
be calling it "XML5" -- because many or most of them even don't
know or care what XML is. All that they know is that they have Web
sites they depend on, and they want those Web sites to work
correctly and remain accessible to them.

Look through the bug database for any browser project and I think
you'll find that there are many end users (not developers -- but
normal end users of sites) who are not particularly happy when
they try to access a site they need to use and find that it has
become completely inaccessible (because of a minor XML WF error).

And, anyway, many sites gave up completely on serving real XML a
long time ago -- after finding it not particularly good for
business to risk having their sites become completely inaccessible
to users because of such problems.

So it's not really a matter of lack of folks advocating for XML5
-- it's lack of them advocating for XML on the Web at all, in
any form.

All that said, I do think there are many content providers and
developers who would really like to getting the potential benefits
of XML on the Web without getting stuck with the liabilities -- in
particular the fatal-by-design liability of catch-fire-and-fail
error handling.

> And there's good reason for that:  XML actually _is_ usable by
> authors and authoring well-formed XML is _not_ hard.

I'll agree that authoring WF XML is not hard at all. It's also not
hard at all to programatically generate WF XML.

But it's not simply a matter of authoring or generating XML. In
fact, authoring and generating XML aren't the issue at all. The
issue is actually putting it out on the real Web and pulling it
out from the real Web into your own content.

As has been pointed out many times before, the real problems come
when you actually need to also handle real Web content that you
don't have complete control over yourself.

To pick one: A key problem case that's been cited many times is
the case of making sure that a part your site is not going to
become completely inaccessible just because one user comes in and
inserts a comment with some malformed markup instance in it that
their scrubber was not configured to deal with. And if you say
it's not hard to anticipate the possible errors and catch them...
well, I'd have to say I know a few very sharp people who have
found otherwise.

  --Mike

-- 
Michael(tm) Smith
http://people.w3.org/mike/
Received on Tuesday, 10 February 2009 23:39:51 GMT

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