5th edition is not a new edition; it's a major new version

The proposed 5th edition of XML 1.0 is disingenuous at best. The claim 
that this is not a new version of XML is simply false. The BNF has 
changed radically, and existing parsers and tools cannot handle the 
documents that this version allows.

E09 and E10 are a deceptive attempt to rewrite history. This is not the 
language the original working group intended or created. While we can 
debate their choices with the wisdom of hindsight, the rules for name 
characters cannot reasonably be classified as a mistake or erratum. They 
were very carefully designed and incorporated into the spec with due 

If anyone wants a version of XML that incorporates these new name 
characters, then they have a reasonable choice: use XML 1.1. That users 
and developers have almost universally ignored XML 1.1 strongly 
indicates that there is no use case here.

I take the abuse of process even more seriously. Letting this major 
change sneak through as an erratum makes a joke of the whole W3C 
process. If this is allowed, what isn't? Why not add binary data, or 
omitted end-tags in the next edition?

A large part of XML's value proposition has been its perceived 
stability. This year's documents can be parsed by next year's parsers, 
and next year's documents can be parsed by this year's parsers. If this 
spec goes through, that will no longer be true. Many tools will simply 
fail without offering any explanation to the user. XML 1.1 was a bad 
idea, but at least it let users know what was up through the version 
declaration. Now we can't even rely on that!

I thought XML was supposed to be a format for long-term, archival 
storage for millennia to come. If this goes through, that promise will 
have been broken in just over a decade. Frankly if this goes through, it 
will be hard to take anything the W3C says seriously again. I might as 
well use JSON or my own custom formats and parsers. :-(

Elliotte Rusty Harold  elharo@metalab.unc.edu
Java I/O 2nd Edition Just Published!

Received on Monday, 11 February 2008 03:01:31 UTC