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Re: [xml-dev] Pragmatic namespaces

Kurt Cagle wrote:

> However, if it is simply a desire by a group of people (notably the WHATWG
> group) to control the standard at its most conservative, then nothing that
> the XML community does, no matter how well intentioned, will make any
> difference. This becomes a formal W3C matter (which it ultimately should
> be)
> - not Google, not Ian Hixie, not any of us here individually ... or has

Unless a broad variety of people participate at W3C, it can be taken in
any direction. Like almost any standards body, participation is the key.

> I'm sorry about being harsh about this, but frankly the whole issue is
> beginning to piss me off. As far as I'm concerned, by allowing the HTML 5
> process to move forward in the first place, there is an open, tacit
> admission that the SGML DTDs underlying HTML are once again open for
> modification. Maybe this is the time to incorporate namespaces into the
> formal DTD, since the DTD emerged before namespaces did. If a different
> notation is needed for backward compatibility, that's fine, but this
> unthinking idiocy of feeling that namespaces in some form should not be a
> part of HTML is just politics for the sake of control.

The syntax of DTDs is not immutable. If the HTML groups would like a form
of DTDs with namespace-awareness, the SGML standard could be changed, as
it was to accomodate XML. Indeed, there already is a specification for
namespace-aware DTDs, prepared as part of ISO DSDL. You can read a draft

> The language NEEDS an extension mechanism. There are more than 10,000
> different XML vocabularies currently in existence at the present time, and
> HTML is still, far and away, the primary carrier for the bulk of them. The
> whole AJAX movement has the potential, with XBL or otherwise, to provide
> behavioral support for those extension elements, as appropriate, and
> without
> this philosophy in place, then we just see the unabated movement towards
> JavaScript becoming a morass of APIs that destroy the whole notion of
> declarative architectures.

I think we need to consider the difference between server-side and
client-side extensions. The XHTML/namespace mechanism seems fine for
server-side extensions, processed at the server. But it has not thrived
for the client-side.

Also, there is in my mind a clear difference between vocabularies that add
different functionality in branches (e.g. MathML, SVG, etc) and
vocabularies that decorate or enhance or interleave with existing HTML
(e.g. RDFa). The former unignorable, heavywieght and handled by plugins 
and the latter ignorable, lightweight and handled by the normal HTML
mechanism (no namespaces).

A great example of this are the ruby text elements. These are inline,
above phrase, annotations to help with pronunciation or meaning or
abbreviation, used primarily in Japanese text, which has a lot of
homophones or variant readings.

Ruby seemed to be the kind of thing that namespaces would be good at, but
namespaces would add so much extra markup to an already complex structure
(by HTML standards) that namespaces were not feasible. But it was desired
to keep them out of the base HTML standard, rather leaving them in a

So I would suggest that at least some of W3C's problems with namespaces
are of their own creation (without implying blame or second-guessing
them): HTML 4 was in effect frozen where it would have been better to let
it continue to evolve. So namespaces became the only tool for evolution,
and since namespaces were never intended to be the only tool in the
toolbelt (i.e. vocabularies continue to evolve even within a namespace) it
is no surprise they are deficient. HTML 5 addresses this backlog.

> Because if it
> chooses to cede this point, then for all intents and purposes the XML
> movement is dead.

Calm down Kurt, it would just shift venues. If there is a market
requirement for it, and if W3C is not interested, then people can ask SC34
to put out an ISO XML. But don't forget that there are other XML-using
groups in W3C: SVG, MathML etc. The HTML WG is not the only voice in the
marketplace. (And it is good to have a variety of different voices, even
if some alarm us!)

Rick Jelliffe

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