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   Deterministic behavior in processors

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  • From: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
  • To: <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Tue, 04 Aug 1998 23:16:28 -0700

At 02:00 PM 8/4/98 -0400, Dean Roddey wrote:
>Hmmm. Ok I'm going to play the "Very Cynical Devil's Advocate" here and ask the
>obvious question of "Is a spec that allows 2^7'th conforming variations really
>a spec?" 
>It would serve
>everyone's best interests (IMHO) to have a very tight specification in which
>there are very few optional reactions to the same circumstances.

Basically I think this concern is reasonable, and the fact that the 
behavior of a NVP is non-deterministic has bothered not a few
people in the XML process; there's even an appendix in the spec that
talks about this.  

As a registered minimalist, it never really bothered me, because I
have always thought that external entities were pretty bogus outside
the authoring arena anyhow, and anybody who sends anything across the
wire had better either:

(a) guarantee no external entities, or
(b) potentially have external entities AND specify use of a validating

In both of these scenarios the behavior is completely deterministic.

I think that anyone who sends XML across the wire and uses external
entities and does not specify a validating processor has rocks in their
head and deserves what they get.

One extrapolation from this argument is that external entities are
bogus and shouldn't have made it into XML.  I believe this, but only
about 48% of the time. 

Another extrapolation is that we should decree that NVP's *never*
read external entities.  But in the authoring situation, having 
an NVP be potentially able to read something like


is handy enough that it seems senseless to rule it out just because
it opens the door to really stupid behavior, viz. sending external
entities over the wire without specifying a validating processor.

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