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The idea of purely logical markup and separating content from presentation may sound simple and promising---until you ask yourself, what to do with the huge pile of existing HTML material?  Can it be painlessly adopted to XML syntax and, more importantly, to XML's ideology of generalized markup?  Read on for some practical answers to these questions...

What XML is all about are not syntactic innovations such as quotes around attribute values and trailing slashes in empty tags.  XML's goal is to comprehensively mark up all details of a given unit of information, without mixing data belonging to different units or different aspects of one unit.  From this viewpoint, a tag-wise conversion of "real world" HTML, with its hopeless medley of logical and visual elements, to XML doesn't make any sense at all.  On most sites, HTML bears little relation not only to the logical structure of pages, but, properly speaking, to the presentation aspect as well: It does not describe formatting of the pages, but only emulates it by using tables, invisible spacers and similar hacks.

So, we have to forget about the XML promise for now---until we take the trouble of re-formulating all our data consistently, be it in its presentation or (more importantly) content aspects.  This is well known to those who take XML seriously and are aware of what it can offer, and a growing number of new document collections and software tools are being built from ground up using XML-inspired approaches.  However, the huge legacy of existing HTML documents needs special treatment.



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