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Web spec labels XML parts

The World Wide Web Consortium recommends XPointer, which is designed to identify discrete sections of a document that uses the Extensible Markup Language.

A method of labeling discrete parts of an XML document concluded its tortuous journey toward standardization with the World Wide Web Consortium's approval of XPointer.

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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Tuesday issued XPointer in three installments: XPointer Framework, XPointer element Scheme, and XPointer xmlns Scheme.

Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a W3C recommendation that lets authors create their own task- or industry-specific markup language for more flexible and searchable digital documents. While XML has long had a linking mechanism built in, the trio of XPointer recommendations provides a way for anyone to segment an XML document and label and link to it.

The Framework gives authors a model for identifying parts of an XML document. The element recommendation lets authors "point" to those specific parts, and the xmlns, or namespace, recommendation establishes a means of delineating which tags belong to which XPointer schemes so that browsers can distinguish between same-named tags from different schemes.

XPointer has been in the works at the W3C for years. Its original version became a candidate recommendation--the consortium's penultimate phase of approval, which usually lasts a matter of weeks--in July 2000.

That early XPointer specification was based on the W3C's XPath recommendation. Calling the initial work "challenging to implement," the W3C went back to the drawing board and came up with today's version, which consortium representative Janet Daly described as "leaner, simpler...and more easily implemented."