re:Multi-Lingual Project Gutenberg (was: Unicode plain text)

From: Frank da Cruz (
Date: Mon May 26 1997 - 12:42:51 EDT

> HTML certainly is an interesting alternative to plain text because it
> is so universal (and, hopefully, with a stable foundation). And it
> allows to include illustrations, annotations, &c.
There is an infinite number of alternatives to plain text. Anybody, anywhere
can make up whatever such alternatives they like -- and they do. HTML is
controlled by Netscape and Microsoft, and changes every five minutes as each
attempts to outdo and undercut the other.

Plain text is an interesting alternative to HTML because nobody controls it
but "just us chickens", and it alone stands a chance of surviving year after
year, decade after decade, as the corporate giants pull the rug out from each
other (and us) on a weekly basis, with their proclamations of ever more
complex proprietary "standards" with which we all must "comply".

This is not to say that a simple and stable form of HTML -- say 1.0, but
augmented by some minimally adequate method of coping with character sets --
is not a suitable method for publishing literary classics on the Web -- after
all, this is the sort of thing the Web was originally designed for, lest we

But this is not to say that even a stable form of HTML could be thought of as
a replacement for plain text. My printer does not render HTML; my email
client is not a Web browser. My text editor is not an HTML authoring system.
My C compiler does not compile HTML. My Telnet client does not interpret
HTML. And perhaps most important, the incomprehensibly enormous corpus of
existing plain-text information does not need to be converted to HTML or
anything else (except perhaps Unicode plain text), especially since any such
requirement would leave most of it behind, and even that which was deemed
worthy of conversion would become obsolete as soon as HTML is replaced by the
next thing.

- Frank

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