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Compression and wireless XML

  • To: xml-dev@l...
  • Subject: Compression and wireless XML
  • From: Mike Champion <mc@x...>
  • Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2002 17:42:19 -0500

wireless xml
At the risk of starting up the perennial "binary XML" debate again, I 
direct your attention to http://www.sys-con.com/xml/articleprint.cfm?id=

"XML isn't binary, and while this means that knotty problems like little-
endian/big-endian confusion are avoided, it also means that raw XML data 
isn't ideal for wireless transmission. In fact, design goal No. 10 for XML 
states that "terseness in XML markup is of minimal importance." This 
doesn't rule out XML for wireless transmission, but it does mean that 
compression is a must. ...One component of the WAP specification that has 
been submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium is a description of 
Wireless Binary XML (WBXML for short). WBXML defines a compact binary 
representation of XML. It reduces the transmission size of XML documents, 
allowing more effective use of XML data on narrowband communication 

There's no disputing that wireless devices are bandwidth challenged and 
that "terseness" is not one of XML's virtues.  But as Elliotte Harold puts 
it: http://www.ibiblio.org/xml/books/xmljava/chapters/ch01s02.html#d0e729  
"there seems to be a large pool of programmers who mistakenly believe 
...they can compress better than gzip."

So, my somewhat ignorant question is: why would these WBXML folks go to 
the trouble of defining yet another compression scheme for wireless XML?  
Aren't the usual compression techniques available in wireless 
toolkits/operating systems?  Can XML-specific compression schemes be 
implemented in significantly less space than gzip (or LZW, or some other 
widely deployed scheme)? Finally, I thought the WAP Forum had learned its 
lesson about diverging from standard practice (de facto or otherwise) on 
the internet, since the wireless infrastructure will not lag TOO far 
behind the rest of the internet, but it takes quite a bit of time to 
deploy enough WAP technology to make it worthwhile for enough people to 
support it to be worthwhile ....

Can anyone help sort this out for me?


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