Binary Data in XML : Turning back the clock

Jonathan A. Borden jborden at
Wed Sep 30 18:21:25 BST 1998

The problem with base64 encoding of binary data in and of itself is that it
says NOTHING about the format of the data, so despite the fact that it can
be included within an XML document from a syntactical point of view, if
people are complaining about 'ugly binary data' this does not solve the
problem. Not that MIME has this problem completely fixed, but at least there
is a Content-Type header which says at least something about the format of
the data. MIME (and hence the cid: URI) has a standard mechanism for typing
binary data.

The Web has exploded in use not because of HTML itself, rather this in
conjunction with HTTP's MIME variant -- to be realistic what would the Web
be like without pictures i.e. gif and jpeg). If base64 is used within XML, a
similar typing mechanism is also required.

Jonathan Borden
JABR Technology Corporation
mailto:jborden at

> >For the XML Framework that I hope to release in the next
> week or so depending on
> >how long it takes to finish up on the documentation, base64
> is handled natively
> >in both the parser and the formatter.
> I agree with all the respondents who have said Base64 is the
> best way to carry binary data; I also agree with the
> original comment that it would be nice if XML had made
> explicit provision for this rather than leaving it to the
> application.
> > Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I think this
> is one service SAXON provides as well.
> You are wrong. I'll think about it as a future facility!
> Mike Kay

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