XML-Data: advantages over DTD syntax? (and some wishes)

Paul Prescod papresco at technologist.com
Sat Oct 4 18:34:48 BST 1997

Rick Jelliffe wrote:
> Computer scientists in universities tend to produce small elegant languages
> because that is all their modest budgets and limited problem domains allow.

Now we're getting off topic, but that is completely incorrect. Computer
scientists produce small languages because small languages present
opportunities for reasoning, proof and analysis that are thwarted by
large languages. SGML is the perfect example of a language that can be
very difficult to prove things about because of (e.g.) minimization. You
are correct that being clean from a computer science point of view is
only one aspect of a language. SGML threw some of that away with
minimization, but made major gains in usability.

SGML's grove model is useful in that it unifies DTDs and documents at
the "application level" without requiring an identical syntax. That is
why it is unconvincing to claim that XML instance syntax for DTDs allows
new forms of processing. At the application level, DTDs and instances
have been "the same" for quite a while. All that is to be saved is a
parser. It all comes back to reducing programmer effort -- which isn't
unimportant but is also not the be-all and end-all.

 Paul Prescod

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