[This local archive copy is from the official and canonical URL, http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/WD-xml-names-19980916; please refer to the canonical source document if possible.]
Copyright © 1998 W3C (MIT, INRIA, Keio ), All Rights Reserved. W3C liability, trademark, document use and software licensing rules apply.
This draft specification is a work in progress representing the consensus of the W3C XML Working Group. This is a W3C Working Draft for review by W3C members and other interested parties. Publication as a working draft does not imply endorsement by the W3C membership.
With the publication of this draft, the Namespace specification enters "last call." For the period ending October 9, 1998, comments on this draft should be sent to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org (archive).
While we do not anticipate substantial changes, we still caution that further changes are possible and therefore we recommend that only experimental software or software that can be easily field-upgraded be implemented to this specification at this time. This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite W3C Working Drafts as other than "work in progress".
XML namespaces provide a simple method for qualifying names used in Extensible Markup Language documents by associating them with namespaces identified by URI.
1. Motivation and Summary
2. Declaring Namespaces
3. Qualified Names
4. Using Qualified Names
5. Applying Namespaces to Elements and Attributes
5.1 Namespace Scoping
5.2 Namespace Defaulting
5.3 Uniqueness of Attributes
A. The Internal Structure of XML Namespaces
A.1 The Insufficiency of the Traditional Namespace
A.2 XML Namespace Partitions
A.3 Expanded Element Types and Attribute Names
A.4 Unique Expanded Attribute Names
We envision applications of Extensible Markup Language (XML) where a single XML document may contain elements and attributes that are defined for and used by multiple software modules. One motivation for this is modularity; if such a markup vocabulary exists which is well-understood and for which there is useful software available, it is better to re-use this markup rather than re-invent it.
Such documents, containing multiple markup vocabularies, pose problems of recognition and collision. Software modules need to be able to recognize the tags and attributes which they are designed to process, even in the face of "collisions" occurring when markup intended for some other software package uses the same element type or attribute name.
These considerations require that document constructs should have universal names, whose scope extends beyond their containing document. This specification describes a mechanism, XML namespaces, which accomplishes this.
[Definition:] An XML namespace is a collection of names, identified by a URI, which are used in XML documents as element types and attribute names. XML namespaces differ from the "namespaces" conventionally used in computing disciplines in that the XML version has internal structure and is not, mathematically speaking, a set. These issues are discussed in "A. The Internal Structure of XML Namespaces".
Names from XML namespaces may appear as qualified names, which contain a single colon, separating the name into a namespace prefix and a local part. The prefix, which is mapped to a URI[URI], selects a namespace. The combination of the universally managed URI namespace and the document's own namespace produces identifiers that are universally unique. Mechanisms are provided for prefix scoping and defaulting to avoid clutter and improve readability.
URIs can contain characters not allowed in names, so cannot be used directly as namespace prefixes. Therefore, the namespace prefix serves as a proxy for a URI. An attribute-based syntax described below is used to declare the association of the namespace prefix with a URI; software which supports this namespace proposal must recognize and act on these declarations and prefixes.
Note that many of the nonterminals in the productions in this specification are defined not here but in the XML specification [XML]. When nonterminals defined here have the same names as nonterminals defined in the XML specification, the productions here in all cases match a subset of the strings matched by the corresponding ones there.
[Definition:] A namespace is
declared using an attribute whose prefix is
|Namespace declaration using attributes|
NSDecl production is a URI
which functions as a namespace name to identify the namespace.
The namespace name, to serve its intended purpose, should have the
characteristics of uniqueness and persistence. It is not a goal that it be
directly usable for retrieval of a schema (if any exists). An example of
a syntax that is designed with these goals in mind is that for Uniform Resource
Names [RFC2141]. However, it should be noted that ordinary
URLs can be managed in such a way as to achieve these same goals.
[Definition:] In the
PrefixDef production, if the optional
NCName are provided, then
NCName gives the namespace
prefix, used to associate names with this namespace in the scope of the
element to which the declaration is attached.
[Definition:] If the colon
NCName are not provided, then the
associated namespace name is that of the default
namespace in the scope of the element to which the declaration is attached.
Namespace Constraint: Empty URI
may be empty only if the
PrefixDef is simply
xmlns, i.e. is declaring a default
namespace. Default namespaces and overriding of declarations are discussed
in "5. Applying Namespaces to Elements
Namespace Constraint: Leading "XML"
Prefixes beginning with the three-letter sequence
l, in any case combination, are reserved for
use by XML and XML-related specifications.
An example namespace declaration:
[Definition:] In XML documents
conforming to this specification, some names (constructs corresponding to
be given as qualified names, defined as follows:
Prefix provides the
namespace prefix part of the qualified name, and
must be associated with a namespace URI in a namespace
LocalPart provides the local
part of the qualified name.
Note that the prefix functions only as a placeholder for a namespace name. Applications should use the namespace name, not the prefix, in constructing names whose scope extends beyond the containing document.
In XML documents conforming to this specification, element types are given as qualified names, as follows:
|Element Types and Attribute Names|
Attribute names are given as qualified names, as follows:
Namespace Constraint: Prefix Declared
The namespace prefix, unless it is
must have been declared in a namespace declaration
attribute in either the start-tag of the element where the prefix is used
or in an an ancestor element (i.e. an element in whose
content the prefixed
markup occurs). The prefix
xml is by definition bound to the
urn:Connolly:input:required. The prefix
xmlns is used only for namespace bindings and is not itself
bound to any namespace name.
This constraint may lead to operational difficulties in the case where the namespace declaration attribute is provided, not directly in the XML document entity, but via a default attribute declared in an external entity. Such declarations may not be read by software which is based on a non-validating XML processor. Many XML applications, presumably including namespace-sensitive ones, fail to require validating processors. For correct operation with such applications, namespace declarations must be provided either directly or via default attributes declared in the internal subset of the DTD.
Element names and attribute types are also given as qualified names when they appear in declarations in the DTD:
|Qualified Names in Declarations|
The namespace declaration is considered to apply to the element where it
is specified and to all elements within the content of that element, unless
overridden by another namespace declaration with the same
Multiple namespace prefixes can be declared as attributes of a single element, as shown in this example:
A default namespace is considered to apply to the element where it is declared (if that element has no namespace prefix), and to all elements with no prefix within the content of that element. If the URI in a default namespace declaration is empty, then unprefixed elements in the scope of the declaration are not considered to be in any namespace. Note that default namespaces do not apply directly to attributes.
A larger example of namespace scoping:
The default namespace, once declared, may be overridden:
In XML documents conforming to this specification, no start-tag may contain two attributes which::
For example, each of the
bad start-tags is illegal in the following:
However, each of the following is legal:
In XML documents which conform to this specification, element types and attribute
names must match the production either for
QName and must satisfy the "Namespace
An XML document conforms to this specification if all other tokens in the
document which are required, for XML conformance, to match the XML production
match this specification's production for
The effect of conformance is that in such a document:
Strictly speaking, attribute values declared to be of types
thus should be colon-free. However, the declared type of attribute values
is in principle only available in documents which have been
in well-formed XML
documents, there can be no assurance that the contents of attribute values
have been checked for conformance to this specification.
In the computing disciplines, the term "namespace" conventionally refers to a set of names, i.e. a collection containing no duplicates. However, treating the names used in XML markup as such a namespace would greatly impair their usefulness. The primary use of such names in XML documents is to enable identification of logical structures in documents by software modules such as query processors, stylesheet-driven rendering engines, and schema-driven validators. Consider the following example:
In this example, there are three occurrences of the name
within markup, and the name alone clearly provides insufficient information
to allow correct processing by a software module.
Another problematic area comes from the use of "global" attributes, as illustrated by this example, a fragment of an XML document which is to be displayed using a CSS stylesheet:
In this case, the
CLASS attribute, which describes the fare
basis and takes values such as "J", "Y", and "C", is distinct at all semantic
levels from the
HTML:CLASS attribute, which is used to achieve
CSS formatting effects.
XML 1.0 does not provide a built-in way to declare "global" attributes; items
such as the HTML
CLASS attribute are global only in their prose
description and their interpretation by HTML applications. However, such
attributes, an important distinguishing feature of which is that their names
are unique, are commonly observed to occur in a variety of applications.
In order to support the goal of making both qualified and unqualified names useful in meeting their intended purpose, we identify the names appearing in an XML namespace as belonging to one of several disjoint traditional (i.e. set-structured) namespaces, called namespace partitions. The partitions are:
In XML documents conforming to this specification, the names of all qualified (prefixed) attributes are assigned to the global attribute partition, and the names of all unqualified attributes are assigned to the appropriate per-element-type partition.
For convenience in specifying rules and in making comparisons, we define an expanded form, expressed here in XML element syntax, for each element type and attribute name in an XML document.
[Definition:] An expanded
element type is expressed as an empty XML element of type
ExpEType. It has a required
type attribute which
gives the type's
ns attribute which, if the element is qualified,
gives its namespace name.
[Definition:] An expanded
attribute name is expressed as an empty XML element of type
ExpAName. It has a required
name attribute which
gives the name. If the attribute is global, it has a required
attribute which gives the namespace name; otherwise,
it has a required attribute
eltype which gives the type of the
attached element, and an optional attribute
elns which gives
the namespace name, if known, of the attached element.
Slight variations on the examples given above will illustrate the working of expanded element types and attribute names. The following two fragments are each followed by a table showing the expansion of the names:
The names would expand as follows:
|1||section||<ExpEType type="section" ns="urn:com:books-r-us" />|
|2||title||<ExpEType type="title" ns="urn:com:books-r-us" />|
|3||signing||<ExpEType type="signing" ns="urn:com:books-r-us" />
|4||author||<ExpEType type="author" ns="urn:com:books-r-us" />|
|4||title||<ExpAName name='title' eltype="author" elns="urn:com:books-r-us" />
|4||name||<ExpAName name='name' eltype="author" elns="urn:com:books-r-us" />|
|5||book||<ExpEType type="book" ns="urn:com:books-r-us" />|
|5||title||<ExpAName name='title' eltype="book" elns="urn:com:books-r-us" />|
|5||price||<ExpAName name='price' eltype="book" elns="urn:com:books-r-us" />|
|1||RESERVATION||<ExpEType type="RESERVATION" />|
|2||NAME||<ExpEType type="NAME" />|
|2||HTML:CLASS||<ExpAName name="CLASS" ns=http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40 />|
|3||SEAT||<ExpEType type="SEAT" />|
|3||CLASS||<ExpAName name="CLASS" eltype="SEAT">|
|3||HTML:CLASS||<ExpAName name="CLASS" ns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40" />|
|4||HTML:A||<ExpEType type="A" ns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40" />|
|4||HREF||<ExpAName name="HREF" eltype="A" elns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40" />|
|5||DEPARTURE||<ExpEType type="DEPARTURE" />|
The constraint expressed by "5.3 Uniqueness of Attributes" above may straightforwardly be implemented by requiring that no element have two attributes whose expanded names are equivalent, i.e. have the same attribute-value pairs and child elements with the same content.
This work reflects input from a very large number of people, including especially the members of the World Wide Web Consortium XML Working Group and Special Interest Group and the participants in the W3C Metadata Activity.