CDATA by any other name... (was The raw and the cooked)

Michael Kay M.H.Kay at
Tue Nov 3 10:39:46 GMT 1998

>I do *not* agree that XML won't come into its own until we bypass
>all the syntax and think only in terms of abstract data structures.
>Having watched this profession for 20 years ago, I have come to
>believe that a truly interoperable API is very nearly an oxymoron;
>but syntax is something we know how to interoperate with.  Also I
>just don't believe that there is One True data model for XML.

I agree that defining what is and is not well-formed and valid XML ought to
be a readily achievable goal, and it is a little surprising to find an area
where the spec is ambiguous on the matter. Hence my suggestion for a formal
analysis to discover whether there are other unsuspected problems.

I also agree that defining what a conformant XML processor should do with
that XML (not to mention what it should do with erroneous XML) is
considerably harder, though I think the problem becomes tractable if the
behaviour is defined in terms of a concrete API such as SAX or DOM.

I agree with those who have pointed out that formalisms like Z are not a
good vehicle for communicating a standard to a wide audience. In my own
experience, however, the kind of thinking required to produce a formal
specification in Z is invaluable when trying to produce an unambiguous one
in clear English. I don't believe that precision and readability are
incompatible goals.

There is information about Z, by the way, on

Mike Kay

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