Replying to James and John. Yes, the early ARPANET protocols are much better than many that are in binary formats. But the point where data encoding becomes an issue is where you have nested structures. SMTP does not have nested structures or need them. A lot of application protocols do.
I have seen a lot of alternatives to X.509 that don't use ASN.1 and are better for it. But they all use nesting. And to get back on topic, the main motive for adding binary to JSON is to support signed blobs and encrypted blobs. Text encodings are easy to read but very difficult to specify boundaries in without ambiguity. Responding to James, No, the reason for baring multiple inheritance is not that it is too clever, it is that studies have shown that code using multiple inheritance is much harder for other people to understand than code using single inheritance. The original reason multiple inheritance was added to C was to support collections. So if you had a class A and a subclass B and wanted to have a list of B then the way you would do it in the early versions of C++ was to inherit from the 'list' class. I think that approach is completely stupid, broken and wrong. It should be possible for people to make lists or sets or bags of any class without the author of the class providing support. Which is why C# has functional types, List<T>. Not incidentally, C also has functional types (or at least the ability to implement same easily). Which is why as a post doc, having studied program language design (Tony Hoare was my college tutor), having written a thesis on program language design, I came to the conclusion that C was a better language base than C++ back in the early 1990s. I can read C++ but it takes me far longer to work out how to do something in C++ than to actually do it in C. So I can't see where C++ is helping. It is reducing, not improving my productivity. I know that some features of the language have been extended/fixed since but it is far too late. At this point it is clear that C++ is a dead end and the future of programming languages will be based on Java, C# (and to a lesser extent Objective C) approaches. Direct multiple inheritance will go and be replaced by interfaces. Though with functional types, use of interfaces is very rarely necessary. So no, I don't equate prohibiting multiple direct inheritance with 'too clever code'. There are good reasons to avoid multiple inheritance, both for code maintenance and to enable the code base to be ported to more modern languages in the future.
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