Integrity in the Hands of the Client

Paul Prescod papresco at
Sun Nov 23 16:57:31 GMT 1997

David G. Durand wrote:
> To my mind, such suggestions are compelling to the extent that they
> are useful in _document_ management (as well as general data
> management) because that really describes the primary focus of XML
> design. XML may well be useful beyond that area, but I think it should
> stay away from bidding on the "universal data format of the ages"
> title, that may well be impossible to ever attain.

This is such an important point I felt I had to emphasize it.

We could legally mandate every single byte that is stored on a computer
hard drive must be in XML and the world would not be a better place. We
would still have incompatibilities between software, we would still have
trouble storing documents in relational databases and relational
information in documents and so forth. Unifying notation is merely a
convenience. It doesn't automatically buy a perfect world of seamless
interoperability as some seem to believe. 

"Sometimes the actual claims for markup-based systems are overstated; 
the claim that SGML results in portable documents, for example, 
falls afoul of the observation that it is possible to put angle 
brackets around troff tags, supply a simple document type descrip- 
tor,and thereby achieve anSGML-compliant document, without gaining 
any portability or descriptiveness for the information. True 
portability requires not only that informa- tion be transportable 
from one machine to another,but that the semantics of that informa- 
tion be the same on either machine. SGML, in particular,claims to 
transfer no semantics, so it surely cannot guarantee portability."

Given this fact, we should focus on making the best notations we can for
the data types we have to represent, rather than trying to stuff all
data into the same notation, or worse, making a single notation that is
adapted for all kinds of data. Putting angle brackets around troff does
not make troff into a serialization of a Java Bean and the fact that
Java Beans and Troff might share a notation does not make it easier to
create troff files from Java or to render them IN Java.

 Paul Prescod

[1] "Markup Reconsidered"

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