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Optional features considered harmful

From: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 23:57:01 +0000
Message-Id: <3.0b33.32.19961023233752.0075acd0@pop.intergate.bc.ca>
To: w3c-sgml-wg@w3.org
At 05:21 PM 23/10/96 -0700, Bill Smith wrote:

>I find the introduction of "optional features" in XML most unfortunate

Me too - I've been feeling bad ever since the vote.  Maybe the WG can help
us out here.  Where we got to on the ERB was:

1. external text entities are a basic necessity for authoring (I want to
   validate my 700-page book without having to have it in a file) and 
   they're not even that hard to do [once you've limited the system 
   identifier repertoire, which we've done].  Arguably, without them,
   XML is a delivery-only toy language
2. external text entities are big-time bad news for a browser -
   particularly since browsers are moving in the direction of exposing
   the document structure to client-side logic.  And in fact the
   jam-it-in-the-parse-tree semantic of text entities is not really
   the kind of transclusion you want in a browser.

So what we REALLY WANT is to say "Here is a feature that is intended
for authoring and document management but look, boyo, don't you go
asking client programs to do this!"  I had proposed a side-step by
saying you could only use <osfile> system identifiers for text
entities, but this kind of smells like a kludge.

Bob Streich had earlier spoken about server-mode vs. client-mode
XML; is this anything more than an option by another name?

I think I speak for the ERB when I say that we would welcome a way to
throw out the optional bathwater without losing the text entity baby,
and cheerfully reconsider the vote of the 23rd.

Cheers, Tim Bray
tbray@textuality.com http://www.textuality.com/ +1-604-488-1167
Received on Thursday, 24 October 1996 03:01:12 UTC

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