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

From: John Fieber (
Date: Tue May 27 1997 - 12:12:47 EDT

On Tue, 27 May 1997, Pierre Lewis <>

> With waivering faith I wrote:
> :-)
> > 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.
> Coincidently, I was reading last nite (ironically, in "iX", a German
> magazine) about XML (eXtensible Markup Language) which, says the
> article, could replace (in the mid term) HTML as the lingua franca of
> the Web. So much for that idea...

Both HTML and XML rest on a very stable foundation: SGML. The
unicode standard defers quite a number of things to "higher level
protocols". SGML just such a protocol, XML represents a profile
of the SGML standard that makes writing processing applications a
lot easier.

If you invest a lot of energy building a document system around
HTML, you will be SOL when HTML falls out of fashion. If you
spend the same energy building a document system on the SGML
foundation, you can automatically deal with HTML and all its
variants, XML, or whatever the next fad is. Real SGML tools are

> Es lebe plain text! (long live ~)

I find this a tragic position. Before unicode, the common
denominator for cross-platform data transfer was 7 bit ASCII.
Unicode charged ahead to raise the common denominator but
statements like this essentially say that the common denominator
should go no further. This is counter to the spirit that
inspired Unicode and counter to the standard itself which
explicitly defers a number of important dimensions of text
processing to higher level protocols.

Plain text is simply not an option for most anyone serious about
their documents.


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