“that error-handling be completely deterministic”

Inasmuch as, back in January, I was teaching another XML course, I reviewed the basis for draconian error handling in XML in light of the sea change in recent years towards HTML5-style completely-defined error recovery.

At the time of the draconian error handling decision, I was on the larger “W3C SGML Working Group” mailing list that provided input, clamour, and distraction to the core “W3C SGML Editorial Review Board” that did the work and made the decisions on the road to XML.  I followed the discussions on the mailing list at the time (as much as humanly possible), and the message about this that stuck in my mind is the “ERB votes on error handling” message from Tim Bray on behalf of the ERB, particularly this section:

2. We have a strong political reality to deal with here in that for the first time, the big browser manufacturers have noticed XML and have together made a strong request: that error-handling be completely deterministic, and that browsers not compete on the basis of excellence in handling mangled documents.  It was observed that if they wanted to do this, they could just do it; but then pointed out that this is exactly why standards exist – to codify the desired practices shared between competitors.  In any case, if we want XML to succeed on the Web, it will be difficult to throw the first serious request from M & N back in their face.

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