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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) March 30, 2000


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http://www.webreference.com http://www.webreference.com/new/ http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. CONTESTS: Submit & Win: Director 8 Shockwave Studio! 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: XML: To Be, or not B2B? 3. NET NEWS: * Demon Settles Net Libel Case * U.S. to Give Web Patents More Scrutiny * Flash SDKs Open the Door to 222 Million Personal Computers * Sonic Foundry Debuts Viscosity * Britain's Answer to Digital Divide - Wire the Pubs

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. CONTESTS:

>Submit & Win: Director 8 Shockwave Studio!

Every Thursday, the Update features a new article contributed by our readers through our Open Publishing Initiative. We encourage you to submit your own article ideas - your words could be here, being read by thousands of other subscribers. And now, writers that get published in the newsletter will earn themselves a copy of Macromedia's brand new Director 8 Shockwave Studio! To learn more about this great multimedia Web authoring suite and how to submit your article idea, just head to:


This week, writer Mark Henry confronts the question of XML - is it all it's cracked up to be (or B2B, as the case may be)? Thanks for the article Mark, and enjoy your copy of the Director 8 Shockwave Studio!


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****************************************************************** ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: XML: To Be, or not B2B?

XML has been touted as the next big thing, the best way for businesses to communicate effectively; the answer to all the different legacy systems, software and hardware that exists in business today. But is XML the answer? Like most answers related to the web: Yes and No.

As most of you know, XML stands for Extensible Markup Language, which is a subset of SGML. To those of you that hand code HTML, XML is easily recognizable. A very simplified example is shown below:


<title> Hello World </title> <p> XYZ Business </p> <p> 123 Main St </p>


<title> Hello World </title> <cname> XYZ Business </cname> <caddress> 123 Main St </caddress>

Wow, that's easy! If it's that easy, why haven't we been using XML all along? I did say it was a very simplified example. But the reality is - anyone who codes HTML is fully capable of coding XML. So what is the hold up? Let's take a look at a real life example.

One of the most common uses for XML will be Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Using an ATM card to purchase gasoline is an immediately recognizable form of EDI. EDI is simply moving an electronic document from one computer to another. This can be done by modem, Internet, floppy, etc. One of the reasons XML looks so attractive is that it can be used to easily move these documents across the Internet.

As you can imagine, retail EDI is huge business. The ability to move invoices, purchase orders, and inventory information is extremely valuable to retailers and their suppliers. Some larger companies are paying over $10,000.00 per month to move EDI documents - and it is still saving them money! XML has the potential to reduce the cost of EDI, making it more affordable for the entire retail industry.

So, let's follow an invoice along as it makes its journey across the Internet. First, some brilliant young coder will produce an EDI document. Then, the MIS department will fire up their Internet connection and send the invoice to the retailer, who will... wait a minute: How does the invoice get made into an EDI document? Once the retailer receives the invoice, what does he do with it? Is everyone going to have to learn to read between all those tags just to pay their invoices?

How the information becomes an EDI document is a matter of schema, or standards. In the example earlier in this article, I used the tag <cname> to represent the name of the company. This is what the schema developers are trying to standardize. The tag for company name needs to be the same across all applications or the information will become useless. If one schema uses <cname> and another uses <coname> to identify the name of a company, XML will not be able to identify the data correctly.


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Here are some of the contenders trying to develop schemas for XML: RosettaNet, ACORD, HL7, CBL, cXML. Also among the contenders is a little known Redmond based company called Microsoft. Their particular foray into schema is BizTalk. You can see why XML is not yet widely used today. With all the different schema being developed, most of us are waiting for the smoke to clear to see which schema is left standing.

The other problem is what to do with the documents once they are received. The invoice that the retailer receives is going to be in an XML format. How does the retailer get the invoice into the accounting software so the bill can be paid? Believe it or not, this is still a problem using traditional EDI. The way this problem is handled now is to hire computer programmers to write "maps" or links, into the existing accounting or inventory control programs on the supplier side. On the retailer side, a link needs to be written to the Point of Sale system.

Mapping an XML document is considerably easier than traditional EDI. An XML document includes metadata, which is data about data. Metadata allows an XML document to include identifiers that define the data including how the data should be processed, who can access the data, who can change it, and how the data can be used. But the big hope for XML will be realized when the mainstream business software packages incorporate the ability to import XML documents the way most database programs can import a comma delimited file - and that will require standards.

So, will XML be the next big thing? Absolutely. Despite all the delay, the need for XML is real. And what does this mean to the Web developers? All those retailers out there are going to need people to write code for them, at least until the major software companies start developing templates in their office software. Even after that, the larger companies are going to need XML experts to write code. The sheer volume of their business means they cannot rely solely on templates. Want to really make a killing? Learn XML and the mapping used to import the data into the legacy systems. You'll be able to write your own ticket and retire to some tropical island in three years.

One last note: I read the other day that a new standard is being developed to incorporate HTML and XML into XHTML. Welcome to the Internet - the only place where a standard can be developed and become obsolete before it has ever been used.


About the Author: Mark Henry has a BS in Finanace from Arizona State, and an MBA from the University of Pheonix. Mark has over 14 years of sales and marketing experience in Business to business environments, and is currently employed by SPS Commerce.

You can contact Mark at: MarkH@rnetedi.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Demon Settles Net Libel Case, U.S. to Give Web Patents More Scrutiny, Flash SDKs Open the Door to 222 Million Personal Computers, Sonic Foundry Debuts Viscosity, Britain's Answer to Digital Divide - Wire the Pubs

>Demon Settles Net Libel Case

Demon, a UK internet service provider, has settled a libel case in a move which could have wide-ranging implications for some ISPs. Laurence Godfrey sued Demon Internet after allegedly defamatory postings about him appeared in USENET newsgroups, and the company failed to remove the messages after he filed complaints. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_695000/695596.stm BBC.co.uk, 000330

>U.S. to Give Web Patents More Scrutiny

Amid a growing debate over patents that stake out broad claims for basic methods of doing business on the Web, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is expected to unveil an overhaul of the way it examines applications and awards patents for many online practices. http://dowjones.wsj.com/n/SB954330176692552580-d-main-c1.html DowJones.com, 000329

>Flash SDKs Open the Door to 222 Million Personal Computers

Macromedia this week released freely available Flash Player and Flash Format Software Development Kits. The two SDKs include C++ libraries and tools that will allow developers to both play, import and export Flash files from within their applications. If the "free" part wasn't appealing enough, Macromedia reminds us that Flash is already installed on 222 million personal computers. http://ipw.internet.com/development/software_development/954342376.html InternetProductWatch.com, 000329

>Sonic Foundry Debuts Viscosity

Sonic Foundry Inc. released Viscosity, its pixel-based, 2D- animation software application that combines image editing and animation by fully integrating individual frame editing, animation effects, Web optimization, and real-time playback. The new animation tool facilitates the creation of compelling animated Web images including banners, buttons, bullets, rollover effects, and dynamic clip art. http://www.internetnews.com/wd-news/article/0,2171,10_330861,00.html

>Britain's Answer to Digital Divide - Wire the Pubs

The British government wants to take the Net to schools, churches and pubs in an effort to prepare its citizens for an economy where 90 percent of the newly created jobs demand IT skills, but where 52 percent of the people in low-income groups have no experience with a computer. http://www.internetnews.com/rumblings/0,1145,81,00.html InternetNews.com, 000330

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Eric Cook Assistant Editor, WebReference.com ecook@internet.com

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