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   Why XML? RE: Why the Infoset?

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  • From: Jonathan Borden <jborden@mediaone.net>
  • To: "W. E. Perry" <wperry@fiduciary.com>, XML DEV <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000 23:20:55 -0400

W. E. Perry wrote:

[lots of rant deleted]

> The Infoset is the unfortunate standard to which those in retreat
> from the radical
> and most useful implications of well-formedness have rallied. At
> its core the
> Infoset insists that there is 'more' to XML than the
> straightforward syntax of
> well-formedness. By imposing its canonical semantics the Infoset
> obviates the
> infinite other semantic outcomes which might be elaborated in
> particular unique
> circumstances from an instance of well-formed XML 1.0 syntax.

How does the Infoset constrain semantics? Except for imposing XML namespace
conformance, the Infoset places few constraints on an XML document. Indeed
it does not force you to even use XML names, the only constraint is a
syntactic one, of explicitly not allowing ':' within element names except as
specified in XML names. And since XML 1.0 warned against this, surely this
cannot qualify as a meaningful constraint. So, if you don't ever use a colon
in an element or attribute name, and you don't use any element or attribute
names which begin with 'xml' and your documents are all well-formed, how
does the Infoset interfere with anything you are doing? It simply doesn't.
It places *no* constraints on you.

And in another message:
[lots more rant deleted]

> I (and the philosophy of WF, I
> assert) want these
> universalities to be determined by the processor as appropriate
> for the particular
> circumstances in which a document instance is processed.

Why XML then? What is so special about well-formnedness. I assert that any
information you can supply in a well-formed document, I can supply in a
non-well formed document.

If you personally have no use for, or cannot understand the use for an
infoset, fine. It doesn't constrain you in any way.

Tell me this, when you take an XML file and insert it into an XML repository
is it still XML? Some people would say that the repository, perhaps an
object database, or perhaps some other type of database, holds an internal
format which represents the XML infoset of the document and is accessable
via the DOM. Some people find this type of processing useful, and for these
people the Infset is useful. True, the DOM spec was written prior to the
Infoset spec, but I think that the only reason this was possible is because
of all the work on groves and property sets that had already been done for
SGML, so the people who devised the DOM already had a pretty good idea of
what the Infoset would look like. If you don't have any use for DOM
processing, or things like XPath, or XPointer, or even SAX, then don't worry
about the Infoset, it won't affect you. No one is forcing you to read any
spec which was written either before or after XML 1.0.

Jonathan Borden


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