Character Encoding and the XML PR (was Re: PR.xml)

Rick Jelliffe ricko at
Fri Jan 16 19:01:46 GMT 1998

> From: David Megginson <ak117 at>

>  > 	- in principle I should be able to sort this by adding something like
>  > 
>  > <?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
>  > 	to the top of the document
> Correct.  The other alternative is to configure your web server to
> send the encoding ISO-8859-1 in the HTTP header for this document if
> the text/xml MIME type is approved, but the problem will reappear if
> you download the file and the parse it on your own system.

Because the XML encoding declaration is not required (in the sense that
it is voluntary, effectively), there is scope for people to generate
bad documents. Similarly, correctly configuring a webserver to provide
appropriate MIME charset parameter values is voluntary.

Obviously, the character encoding is not something that lay users will
know about. Which means that it is something that XML software developers
and website administrators must be on top of it. 

For example, even to make a convention like "All XML documents generated
at this site must use ISO 8859-1 encoding, and this encoding must be
correctly labelled in the header and correctly set in any webserver 
configuration files" does not require any kind of extensive understanding
of character sets and encodings. And it will get most Western sites
out of any problems.

A software developer (except for a LISP one) probably does not consider it 
strange that they must know the different types of numbers available to them:
integers, floating point; signed and unsigned; long, int; etc.  These are
taught in University courses; now we have a WWW, programmers will have to
become more aware of encoding and character set issues (but still not
a great deal) just as a matter of course.

Rick Jelliffe

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