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The .NET shell does this, but that's why it's not Unix, and it's not universal.

If programs passed data structures then either you're forcing a certain data structure model (i.e. it's not universal, because it's not compatible with anything else), or your data structures are so general (i.e. a block stream) that your applications are going to be parsing anyway... and that's going to be even nastier than if everything was stupid text steams in the first place.

Programs already need to have their input in the proper format in order to parse them. I'd like the mismatch error to be from the invocation of the program rather than halfway down the parsing.

For this to work data structures would have to be nothing more than scalars, sequences and mappings without specific concrete types. Just like JSON, YAML, and the rest do it now.

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