HERE's why the world needs a simpler XML! [was Re: The XML decl is not a PI (especially in SAX)]

Rick Jelliffe ricko at
Mon Nov 15 06:15:04 GMT 1999

From: Michael Champion <Mike.Champion at>

>Sigh.  I'm sure David Megginson is right ... but doesn't this
illustrate a
>big point that Don Park has been making?  We've got this thing that
>like a PI to the casual observer, and even people who've looked at the
>subject deeply enough to write a book about XML have gotten confused!

But is it an important confusion?

In C we have types int and long and short and so on: but we only have
char and wchar_t.  Programmers have been trained that storage of
characters is important but a knowledge of the sets they use is not.  So
many or most programmers simply do not have any idea about
encodings/repertoires/collections/sets or characters/glyphs etc.

This collosal ignorance of the tools of our trade means that in order to
understand the XML header people must be given a little non-scary primer
on character encodings. The issue of whether it is a PI or not is
certainly relevent, because it is a major plus for XML if the encoding
is not considered part of the information set (which is not to say that
it should be thrown away, as mentioned).

On this issue, I think the books on XML and the various implementations
have been excellent; if one XML implementation keeps it as a PI and if
one book uses the term for this loosely, it is perhaps the most minor
flaw that is imaginable.  99.999% of users will not care whether it is a
PI or not; but at least 99% will care that multiple encodings are
supported well and richly on input and output.

Rick Jelliffe

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