[whatwg] markup as authored in practice

James Graham jg307 at cam.ac.uk
Sat Dec 2 08:54:27 PST 2006

Elliotte Harold wrote:
> James Graham wrote:
>> Ignoring the _syntax_ for a moment, there have been reasons given for 
>> wanting to use XML _features_ in HTML5 - the desire to embed MathML or 
>> SVG in a HTML document, for example. You suggest punting these use 
>> cases to XHTML5, without addressing the fundamental problem that the 
>> XML parsing model is unsuitable for the web, so denying authors the 
>> possibility of rich (what XML would regard as "mixed namespace") content.
> I do not believe the XML parsing model is unsuitable for the Web. 

Well I think you're hugely mistaken. Any model without support for error 
recovery is not suitable for hand authoring (and only marginally 
suitable for machine authoring). Since most web documents are hand 
authored, and even those which are not are produced by tools which 
prioritize speed, ease of use and features rather than bulletproofing 
against all possible output errors, XML is not a suitable format for the 

> I believe it is unsuitable for the legacy Web, and maybe for someone hand 
> authoring their first Hello World page. However anyone who's putting 
> MathML or SVG in a page is way beyond that point, and fully capable of 
> handling XML's parsing model.

Out in the real world, not everyone gives a shit about markup standards, 
but that doesn't certainly doesn't mean that their content isn't worth 
viewing. For example, the majority of people who are likely to want to 
publish mathematics on the web are professional scientists or engineers. 
However, in my experience, the fraction of such people who are competent 
to reliably produce valid XML is tiny[1]. By insisting on XML you are 
effectively preventing these people from publishing in their field of 
expertise. The same is presumably true of artists and SVG - even if they 
have tools to produce all of the graphics, how many will be able to keep 
the surrounding XHTML document well formed, much less valid? Given the 
state of the web at the moment I would postulate "very few".

If we can only use technologies such as MathML and SVG in XHTML (as 
application/xhtml+xml of course), those technologies are dead in the water.

[1] See, for example 
http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/archives/000564.html for one of 
the few examples of where a scientist (who happens to also know an awful 
lot about markup) /has/ managed to work with XML, and to see just how 
far from "Hello world" it really is.

"The universe doesn't care what you believe. The wonderful thing about 
science is that it doesn't ask for your faith, it just asks for your 
eyes" --- http://xkcd.com/c154.html

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