mart3862 mentions "XML processing instructions" and quotes their syntax from the spec, but is mistaken in using
<?xml version="1.0" ...?>
as an example. This little bit of markup that appears at the beginning of an XML file is in fact not a processing instruction at all; it is an "XML declaration" -- or, if it appears in an entity other than the main document, a "text declaration". All three constructs are formatted slightly differently, although they all do begin and end with the same.
The difference between a processing instruction, an XML declaration, or a text declaration is more than just a matter of subtle differences in syntax, though. A processing instruction embodies exactly two opaque, author-defined pieces of information (a 'target' and an 'instruction') that are considered to be part of the document's logical structure and that are thus made available to an application by the XML parser. An XML or text declaration, on the other hand, contains one to three specific pieces of information (version, encoding, standalone status), each with a well-defined meaning. This info provides cues to the parser to help it know how to read the file; it is not considered part of the document's logical structure and is not made available to the application.