Binary Data in XML : Turning back the clock

Paul Prescod papresco at
Wed Sep 30 15:50:35 BST 1998

"Samuel R. Blackburn" wrote:
> A couple of weeks ago on this list, there was a thread that was
> lamenting the slow adoption of XML in the web community.
> It seems to me that one of the first problems programmers
> encounter is XML's inability to handle "binary" data. Once they
> hit that wall, they drop XML and move on to something else
> (usually a custom format).

First, binary data is not a wall. It's at most a gate. There are several
ways to handle it, none of them particularly onerous. My favourite is

Second, recall that binary junk is what we are running away from.

<ms:word xml:length="10000 bytes"></ms:word>

Yuck! I will rue the day I crash "vi" or "more" by looking at an XML

I think that it is a much better practice to have the XML document contain
only human-readable, human-editable text and LINKS to necessarily
non-readable stuff. I suppose I would make an exception for streaming
processes that want to interleave tags and data: base64 handles this fine.

 Paul Prescod  -

Bart: Dad, do I really have to brush my teeth?
Homer: No, but at least wash your mouth out with soda.

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