SAX2: Namespace proposal

Peter Murray-Rust peter at
Sun Dec 19 11:16:31 GMT 1999

At 03:45 PM 12/18/99 -0500, David Megginson wrote:
>In my last message, I summarized some of the major positions that have
>emerged on Namespace support in SAX2.  

I am deliberately not taking a position in this.

>Anyway, here's what I'm suggesting.
[... spec and example deleted ...]
>This is kind-of painful, I know, but please remember that SAX is meant
>to be the equivalent of a low-level device driver, not an elegant,
>high-level API (though those can be and have been built on top of it).

I would like to thank David for coming up with this proposal and I hope
that the community is able to move forward rapidly with it. Namespace
support is an all-or-nothing thing - if you have one critical tool in the
set that doesn't support namespaces, then it is likely that you won't use

To take CML as an example, a typical document *ought to* look something like:
<foo:bar xmlns:foo="">
  <xyzzy:molecule xmlns:xyzzy="">
    <atom ...>

People are now starting to author CML documents, using the DTD and examples
that I and Henry have published. NONE of the authors, including myself uses
namespaces because there is not a consistent toolset. So we actually see:
  <molecule>... </molecule>

and processing programs rely on the likelihood that there will be no
semantic collision with some other document.

My pressing need is to get a workable namespace-processing mechanism before
we get overtaken by well-meant but incorrect attempts to create exemplar
documents *** and code ***. I would expect almost all CML authors to
actually be using code that looks like:
	startElement(name, atts);
	if (name.equals("molecule")) ...

I expect that some may be even be writing:
	if (name.equals("molecule") || name.equals("cml:molecule")) ...
which we all wish to avoid.

One thing that I continue to urge is that things be kept simple. I have
consistently done this because only simple things can be easily implemented
in a community-wide approach. It may sound irresponsible but I think it is
more important that SAX2 gets implemented than that we get every bit
exactly right.

It is worth noting that Namespaces - which apparently involve very little
programming to implement - have taken a surprisingly long time to get
universally implemented.

What David has suggested is something that I can use and will use if it
gets taken forward. 


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