Is XML 1.0 underspecified? (was: Re: CDATA by any othername...)
papresco at technologist.com
Sat Oct 31 13:11:05 GMT 1998
Sean Mc Grath wrote:
> What he said. If the W3C had landed the XML 1.0 in Z or VDM or
> something we wouldn't have half as many implementations as we
> currently have. Sure we now need more formalism to ensure that
> XML goes from strength to strength but without the balance of
> approachability/formalism XML 1.0 uses we would not have got
Given sufficient technical resources, you can have a very terse, precise
specification and tutorials and "annotated specifications" that provide an
introductory path to the specification. In the long run, reading a book on
Z, a book on XML and a Z-based XML spec is easier than trying to
reconstruct the ideas in the authors heads based on imprecise prose. It's
not like making an XML parser is a weekend job anyhow!
I'm not arguing in favour of Z in particular, however. I'm arguing in
favour of some form of precise formalism. One approach might be to come up
with a vague mental model, build non-normative formal descriptions to make
sure that the ideas are sound and complete, and then transliterate into
> It must also be rememembered that SGML from which XML sprung
> has very complex interplays between parsing modes, logical and
> physical structures. Some of this was bound to leak over into
That is certainly true. If we could go back in time and specify SGML in
terms of formalisms, it wouldn't be such a hairy language today. Even the
relatively simple grove formalism has lain bare the weirdness in SGML (but
also highlighted some deep and beautiful symmetries).
Hind sight is 20/20.
Paul Prescod - http://itrc.uwaterloo.ca/~papresco
"The new revolutionaries believe the time has come for an aggressive
move against our oppressors. We have established a solid beachhead
on Friday. We now intend to fight vigorously for 'casual Thursdays.'
-- who says America's revolutionary spirit is dead?
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