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My proposal: Implicit namespaces

  • From: rjelliffe@allette.com.au
  • To: "XML Developers List" <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2009 17:58:19 +1000 (EST)

My proposal: Implicit namespaces
Here is my suggestion for namespaces and HTML.

 1) the purpose of namespaces is disambiguation, but when we start with
HTML we rarely find that elements with the same local name are used, and
certainly not in the exactly the same context, and
 2) the namespace URI is used as a symbol to connect to schemas etc, but
when we use HTML we find that browsers operate by built-in knowledge that
does not require extra resolution of the URI,

we can simplify our lives by saying "namespaces in HTML are only ever
needed for non-standard customized fragments."

In other words, if you want to put in SVG into an HTML document, there are
not name clashes (in context) so there is no purpose served by namespaces.
All the HTML committee needs to do is say something like

"These are the standard vocabularies: HTML, SVG, RDF, etc etc, if you find
an element belonging to them, that starts a new branch."

In formal terms, you could see it as having a notional name-rewriting step
(which could be specified in ISO DSRL by the way) that goes from bare
names to qualified names.

The advantages:
 * HTML keeps plain and simple, and no-one has to worry about namespace
 * people who want to add custom bits can do so, and can use namespaces
and so on using the current mechanism.
 * XHTML can continue on without change
 * mixed convention documents need not be distrupted
 * no big effort for defining a new syntax, which may be an exercise in
shifting verbosity from one location to another, would be required

(Another way of achieving much the same thing would be to allow multiple
namespaces as the default, with a schema-linked mechanism where the
namespace URI can be chosed by matching the local name in context with
unambiguous choices in a list of schemas. Not less defaulting, but

Rick Jelliffe

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