Michael Daconta

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In designing markup languages, one of the first questions customers ask religiously is, "Do you prefer elements or attributes?" In fact, if you examine many of the current markup languages on the Internet, you often see a strict schism between those that use mostly (or even exclusively) attributes and those that use mostly or exclusively elements. I believe this should not be an either/or proposition because elements and attributes are not interchangeable even though they have similarities. This article will examine why this problem exists, the nature of elements and attributes, and a logical set of rules to determine when each is appropriate to use. Element-Centric Approach Table 1 compares an element-centric approach to an attribute-centric approach on a canonical example. The roots of this problem arise due to a collision of two opposing biases. On the one hand,... (more)