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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) December 2, 1999


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1. FEATURED ARTICLE: X(ML) Marks the Spot 2. NET NEWS: * Microsoft Ditches J++ * $7.5M Paid For "Business.com" Domain * Cursor Software Tracks Web Traffic * Volkswagen Loses First Round in Domain Dispute * Oasis XML Consortium Brewing Standard * Wired VaporWare Awards: Call for Submissions

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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. Those that make the cut receive a free copy of Adobe GoLive 4.0 and a cool internet.com T-shirt!


This week, writer Leroyson Figueira introduces us to XML, one of the hottest topics in Web development today. Keep your eyes peeled for a new regular XML column on WebReference.com soon!

Spread the word - Feel free to send a copy of this newsletter to your friends and colleagues, and while you're at it, snap a link to WebReference.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. FEATURED ARTICLE: X(ML) Marks the Spot

Never before has an Internet development witnessed such rave reviews before thorough implementation and testing as the eXtensible Markup Language (XML). XML is definitely the latest buzzword in the developer community. However, you must crawl before you can walk. The idea of creating an XML based e-commerce solution is exciting, but what about a simple XML page which has standard Web media elements such as graphics or Flash files?

XML promises to give us intelligent document structures, object oriented document manipulations, synchronized media and a whole lot more. But what is XML exactly, and why has it created such a stir? This article is for those developers who are looking for a hands-on explanation of XML basics.

>What is XML?

The eXtensible Markup Language and HTML are both subsets of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). SGML is a very powerful technology that can be viewed as the parent of many markup languages, which include HTML and XML. With XML, it is possible to create new variations such as the Wireless Application Protocol Markup Language (WAPML or WML), which makes communicating and transactions between a mobile phone and a Web server possible.

Of all the aspects of XML, the following is probably the most important: XML only recently became an official W3C recommendation. This means that the consortium still hasn't made a decision about standard XML. Many XML elements used in Explorer 5.0 are based on the W3C draft and they will probably be included in the official XML specs. Netscape has probably made the wise decision to wait with releasing their XML compliant version 5 browser until the official specs have been determined.

Enough background information. Let's get into the real deal. The big difference between XML and HTML is the following: an HTML document has three different elements: The first element being the text (e.g. "Welcome to my homepage"). The second element is the document structure such as tables and linebreaks. The third element is the visual markup such as bold text, italic text, graphics and other visual elements.

An XML document, however, can actually consist of two or three different pages. Because seeing is believing, I've included a short example below.

1. The first page is the actual XML information you wish to display. In first generation XML sites, this information will probably be text contained in the page called "whatever.xml". This page doesn't have any structure such as a table or visual markup (bold, italic or color).

Whatever.xml looks like: <?XML version="1.0" ?> <?XML-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="whatever.xsl"?> <people> <friend> <name>Lee</name> <address>25 Malvern street</address> <telephone>123 456 789</telephone> </friend> <friend> <name>Susanna</name> <address>11 Durban road</address> <telephone>987 654 231</telephone> </friend> </people>

2. The second page has the Extensible Stylesheet Language (whatever.xsl). This page has HTML and "tags" which takes the data out of whatever.xml and puts into "whatever.xsl". The xsl document has the mark-up such as <body>, <table> and <font>.

Whatever.xsl looks like: <?XML version="1.0"?> <xsl:stylesheet XMLns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/TR/WD-xsl"> <xsl:template match="/"> <HTML> <head><title>XML Developer</title></head> <body> <table border="1" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3"> <xsl:for-each select="people/friend"> <tr> <td><b>Name:</b><br/></td> <td><xsl:value-of select="name"/></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Address:<br/></td> <td><i><xsl:value-of select="address"/></i></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Telephone:<br/></td> <td><i><xsl:value-of select="telephone"/></i><br/></td> </tr> </xsl:for-each> </table> </body> </HTML> </xsl:template> </xsl:stylesheet>

3. The third page is the Document Type Definition. The good news is that a DTD is not always necessary, especially in a simple XML document. The bad news is that a DTD is pretty darn difficult. It contains elements such as attributes and data types. For more information on DTDs, take a look at:


The XML version of linebreak is <br/> instead of the HTML <br>. Herein lies the secret in getting around the most common and frustrating markup language bugs [or features, depending on your point of view -eds.], which go by the name of validity or "well- formed code." In the good old Internet days, developers were very meticulous when it came to their coding. If you opened a <font> tag, you'd have to close it with </font>. When browsers got smarter, coders became lazier. As HTML evolved, people also decided that it wasn't necessary to include certain quotes in their code. So what was once <font color="white"> became <font color=white>. And then XML hit the scene.


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If you open a font tag and forget to close it in with </font>, your browser will have a fit and your document won't show. The basic rule therefore is that every tag must be opened and closed in a logical order. A logical order means that this works: <b><i>bold&italic</i></b> and this doesn't: <b><i>bold&italic</b></i>. Just in case you're wondering, this won't work either: <b><i>bold&italic</I></B>. It's either uppercase or lowercase, there's no mixing involved in this game. Last but not least, <font color=white> won't work either, so don't forget your quotation marks. So this bug/feature will certainly haunt you for the first few XML documents you create (and probably all your documents when you are coding past your bedtime).

The validity issue has another aspect: what about tags that aren't open or closed? The break tag <br> is a good example. This problem was solved with the syntax <br/>. Easy, isn't it? Another example to bring the point home: to place an image in the whatever.xls page use <img src="graphic.gif"/>.

Nowadays, many coders use an editor for tasks such as creating the code to place a Flash animation in a page. If you use Macromedia's Aftershock tool for Flash or Director, you'll have to adjust the code to be well-formed:

<OBJECT classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000"

codebase="http://active.macromedia.com/flash2/cabs/swflash.cab#version=3,0,0,0" ID="projectxml" WIDTH="570" HEIGHT="100"> <PARAM NAME="movie" VALUE="flashanimation.swf"/> <PARAM NAME="quality" VALUE="autohigh"/> <PARAM NAME="bgcolor" VALUE="#FFFFFF"/>

<EMBED SRC="images/projectxml.swf" swLiveConnect="FALSE" WIDTH="570" HEIGHT="100" QUALITY="autohigh" BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF" TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash" PLUGINSPAGE="http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash"> </EMBED> </OBJECT>

All commonly used HTML editors can create invalid XML code. At the time of this writing, XML editors have started appearing on the Net. When using programming languages such as Java (in the HTML code), JavaScript, and VBScript, there is also a chance that the XML may not be valid. Thankfully, the parser (which takes the XML code and creates a viewable document) often lets you know roughly where the bug is. The parser in Explorer 5, for example, tells you if tags don't match. With this XML basis it is possible to create a complete XML document which can be viewed and manipulated with Explorer 5.0.

>So where is XML going?

In the future, it's likely that XML programming and all its related applications (such as SMIL) will be as important in Internet development as predicted. HTML will not vanish off the face of the Earth; it will probably remain an important part of development. XML will, however, be an eXtensive framework to create an unimaginable amount of subset applications, such as the Wireless Application Protocol Markup Language (WML) and many others. XML has opened many exciting doors for both programmers and interactive designers.


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About the author: Leroyson Figueira is a freelance Web integrator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He is currently enjoying himself with Flash 4, XML and beta-WAP applications. http://www.redhotmedia.nl He can be reached at: leroyson@redhotmedia.nl

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. NET NEWS: Microsoft Ditches J++, $7.5M Paid For "Business.com" Domain, Cursor Software Tracks Web Traffic, Volkswagen Loses First Round in Domain Dispute, Oasis XML Consortium Brewing Standard, Wired VaporWare Awards: Call for Submissions

>Microsoft Ditches J++

Microsoft has turned its back on Java development by canning its Visual J++ 6 programming tool. News of the demise of Visual J++ is being linked to Microsoft's latest announcement of 'programming the web' using Web language XML as the lingua franca. http://www.vnunet.com/News/104030 http://slashdot.org/articles/99/12/02/1112215.shtml Vnunet.com, Slashdot.org, 991202

>$7.5M Paid For "Business.com" Domain

A high-powered Internet venture capital fund on Tuesday paid more than $7.5 million for the Internet address business.com - the most ever paid for a Web domain name, naming consultants said. http://cnnfn.com/1999/11/30/deals/wires/ecompanies_wg/ CNNfn.com, 991130

Looking through our newsletter archives, we found that the story of the original sale of business.com in 1997 (for a then-amazing and now ridiculously low price of $150k) is still active at: http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-319447.html CNET.com, 970604

>Cursor Software Tracks Web Traffic

Popular software used by more than 16 million people to change a Web browser's computer cursor into cartoon characters and other images is quietly tracking its customers across the Internet and recording which Web pages they visit. http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/19991130/tc/internet_privacy_3.html Yahoo.com, 991130

>Volkswagen Loses First Round in Domain Dispute

In another David-versus-Goliath court battle, a Virginia judge set another precedent for small companies by favoring Virtual Works' domain name registration over the Volkswagen trademark. The judge refused to grant an injunction to Volkswagen that would force Internet company Virtual Works from using the vw.net domain. http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,1087,3_246671,00.html Internetnews.com, 991130

>Oasis XML Consortium Brewing Standard

A consortium of tech firms is working with a United Nations organization to develop a common way for businesses to use Extensible Markup Language to exchange data. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-1476210.html CNET.com, 991201

>Wired VaporWare Awards: Call for Submissions

Fans of overhyped products rejoice! It's the third annual Wired News Vaporware awards. Here's the chance to nominate your favorites for the "Bottom 10." http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,32750,00.html Wired.com, 991201

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