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I was interested to see Glenn Adams' reference to the MIME RFC, though
not because of its support for eight-bit characters (which, like most
things to do with character sets, I regard as marginally less interesting
than watching paint dry).
 
How many other readers of this list have read the RFC? How many others
have been as depressed as I was by its espousal of something called
"rich text" format? This is nothing (or not much) to do with any
proprietary format of a similar name, nor, despite appearances, is it
much to do with SGML. What it offers is the ability to put labelled
bracketting into your text and have the receiving mailer reformat it,
maybe.
 
The RFC is a bit coy about the relationship between what it proposes and
SGML. It clearly *isnt* SGML, because there isn't any DTD -- a set of
example names for elements is proposed with some vague semantics (bold,
italic etc.) but you can add to it at will and there's no way of telling
your recipient what your extensions mean -- but it clearly would like to
be because you must make sure your brackets are properly nested. On the
other hand, there's no indication of what the element nesting means: at
one point it says that <a><b>something</b></a> and
<b><a>something</a></b> are both legal and *both have the same effect*,
which seems somewhat counter intuitive to me. The example in the RFC is
for bold and italic, which makes sense; but suppose (choosing pairs at
random from the proposed list) a and b were 'heading' and 'footing', or
'flushleft' and 'center'?
 
The acronym 'RFC', as we all know, doesn't stand for "request for
comment" but "really firm concrete" so I don't anticipate getting this
sort of idiocy changed in the near future. What might be nice though is
to work towards a world in which a MIME message could specify 'TEI.2' as
its message type. Any advice on how we might cause that to happen would
be gratefully received...
 
Lou Burnard