HTML Unleashed. The Emergence of XML: The Prospects of XML | WebReference

HTML Unleashed. The Emergence of XML: The Prospects of XML


HTML Unleashed: The Emergence of XML

The Prospects of XML


XML is really a quite recent development. Its basic principles were all worked out in 1996, and the first draft of the specification was presented to the public on the SGML 96 conference in November.  A revised draft (still not final specification) was released in March 1997.  As of this writing, software created for parsing XML files is all experimental and can fit on one 3.5-inch disk.

Nevertheless, this new development is likely to seriously impact the web industry in the near future, and in the more distant future, it may completely change the landscape we're accustomed to.  Here are several points that were chosen as the most important goals by the designers of the language.  These may become the key advantages in the competition of XML with other technologies:

  • XML shall be straightforwardly usable over the Internet.  Web servers in use today require minimal configuration changes to be able to serve XML documents.  The standard way to link and bind together XML documents and DTDs is via URLs that are understood by the majority of Internet software.

  • It shall be easy to write programs that process XML documents.  The experimental XML software mentioned earlier is all written in Java, with some of the experimental XML parsers being contained in class files of a few kilobytes in size.

  • XML documents should be human-legible and reasonably clear.  With the users of XML being able to create their own tags and attributes with self-explanatory names, an XML file is likely to be nearly as readable (and in some cases, even more readable) as plain text.

  • The XML standard should be prepared quickly.  It is not yet finalized, but the amount of work done in such a short term is impressive.

  • The design of XML shall be formal and concise.  Syntax descriptions in XML specification use a formal grammar that is concise, easy to understand, and easy to translate into programming code.

  • XML documents shall be easy to create.  As you've seen in this chapter, the concept of well-formedness enables you to quickly mark up any document or translate it from HTML to XML.

  • Terseness in XML markup is of minimal importance.  Clear and unambiguous syntax was always given preference over the possibility of saving a few keystrokes.

The XML technology is in an embryonic state, so any attempts to augur its future are almost sure to not come true.  However, the growing interest in XML shown by many people concerned with web development is a clear indication that the Web is eager to try out something more powerful and elegant than the HTML of today.


Created: Jun. 15, 1997
Revised: Jun. 16, 1997