> Exactly, this is more or less the approach I was thinking about (high level, not the details. I don't see the need for tar, for instance).
I have been turning this over in my head since I posted that and have refined it somewhat. Rather than creating a tar file it should be enough to create a standard file in a known mime format with a usable magic number (note that the opendesktop.org mime specification allows for adding custom mime formats complete with magic numbers to a system). This would of course mean that text data would also need to be preceded by a mime tag, which I recognise makes the system slightly uglier, but also more reliable. Conversions could be handled in the BeOS way, which is to register conversion filters with the system (shared objects or just executable filters - in the end they need to be loaded from disk one way or another, so it might not make much difference). An application pasting clipboard data of a mime type it couldn't handle could enumerate the available filters to see if one of them helped.
An X11 application using this clipboard should of course start a proxy application - preferably a well known singleton application - which would keep the clipboard in sync with the traditional X11 one. This would allow for painless transition (I say transition, but there is no reason this sort of compatibility shouldn't be maintained for ever). Perhaps (although unlikely) I will try to get this working some time. I already maintain an X11 clipboard proxy tool that could be adapted to do the job.