Inline markup considered harmful?

Rick Jelliffe ricko at
Thu Jun 17 19:35:17 BST 1999

From: Len Bullard <cbullard at>

>He  goes beyond facts into beliefs about what is best for everyone's
>information resources.   Many of us have statements like that somewhere
>in the archives.  All I am saying is that calling markup a
>cancer is hyperbole.  It is a less than ideal but better
>than UTF-8 way of getting certain jobs done that Ted did
>not do.  Those that did do it did a good job.

Nelson's main objection to inline markup seems to be that it upsets
byte counts; but this is because counting bytes is the basis of
his counting system.  I don't know of anyone else who has systems
where counting bytes is important, so it does not seem a good general

There is a superficial problem, of course, that bytes are not characters
and he seems to treat them interchangably: I don't see it that is is
practical for internationlization reasons: "university" takes 11 bytes
(including a space) in ASC II, 22 in UTF-16, and its Chinese equivalent
takes 4 in Big 5 and 6 in UTF-8 and 4 in UTF-16. So the encoding can
double the cost, and not be comparable between scripts. Using locale is
no good to set costs because there are so many multilingual countries
(i.e., Singapore with Chinese, English and Tamil). Using character
properties adds the kind of overhead that he decries for XML.

A more serious objection is that one can do already external markup with
or XML: HyTime was specifically created to allow indexing into any kind
of object including plain text files and structured data.  I don't know
XPointers will be capable of indexing into strings: indexing can be
unless the kind of normalization of the text is known.

Rick Jelliffe

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