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XML overhyped (was: XML)

by rodry (Beadle)
on Sep 11, 2000 at 10:41 UTC ( #31850=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

XML seems to be the next big thing in web development. I don't know very much about it, so I can't make an informed decision about it. I don't know if I will benefit from it.

My impression is that XML is going in the direction of JAVA, as far as hype and the time it will take for it to live up to it.

What do you think?

Edited by mirod: title changed

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
by merlyn (Sage) on Sep 11, 2000 at 10:58 UTC
    I don't see all the "hype" because I'm trying to get my head into what it really is, so I can't judge that.

    Here's some important facts (or at least important enough for them to occur to me in the few minutes I was typing this post):

    • There is no more HTML. The only standard for web browsing is now XHTML, which is an XML application, not an SGML application (as HTML was).
    • XML requires a parser to abort if it's malformed. No more browsers that all error-correct malformed HTML in different ways.
    • XML is simpler to parse because there are no optional end tags.
    • XML is not a universal "data exchange" panacea. You still have to agree on the semantics of the tags. But at least the syntax is clearly indisputable.
    • XML is rich enough that almost anything that wants to be a "text" file with structure can be represented as XML
    • XML will never be an input format for naive data entry. The rules for constructing XML data are learnable, but not by the average data entry clerk. {grin}
    Hopefully, that's a good start. I think XML is a good thing, but only for what it is designed for.

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

by Ugly (Beadle) on Sep 11, 2000 at 13:16 UTC
(ar0n: SVG) RE: XML
by ar0n (Priest) on Sep 11, 2000 at 11:16 UTC
    As for living up to its expectation, try taking a look at Scalable Vector Graphics -- which is an XML implementation used to describe vector graphics (and it does animations too (wee!)!) (alot like Macromedia's Flash).

    -- ar0n (nifty)

by BastardOperator (Monk) on Sep 11, 2000 at 17:03 UTC
    Another app that's currently using XML is jabber, which is basically an IM, although if I'm not mistaken a few companies are looking at using it for a lot more than that. Jabber sends messages as XML data. Here's a link to a Dr. Dobbs interview about jabber: A lot of apps are using XML in some way or another, although most of them don't currently use DTDs. Most of them just use the XML data structure.
by araqnid (Beadle) on Sep 12, 2000 at 17:04 UTC
    Way overhyped, I agree- but largely because it's misunderstood.

    Istr once reading in a "quick explanation of XML" (can't remember where precisely it was, sorry) that the author made the point that programmers often design file formats without hardly thinking about it: configuration files, state files, document files...

    The point is, XML allows for a common structure for most of these one-time formats that autmatically gives benefits such as:

    • common parsers, with strong syntax (well-formedness) checking
    • parsers in essentially every language out there
    • handles character escaping, and specifying character sets
    • well-defined way of expressing hierarchies
    • a way of specifying semantics in a machine-readable manner for futher checking (DTDs)

    ( as an example (or indeed a shameless plug), I wrote make_photos which uses XML as an input file- and imho it's perfectly suited, and much better than the text file I used for the script's first incarnation)

    I think that most of the "XML Powering YOUR Website!" stuff applies to technology built on top of XML, not XML itself. Which is misleading, but fairly typical marketroid-speak.

by mirod (Canon) on Sep 11, 2000 at 20:00 UTC

    XML is just something (actually a meta-language) with an HTML-like syntax (pointy brakets, elements and attributes) except it lets you define your own tags.

    This is both a blessing, as now you can define what you data IS as opposed to what it looks like, and a curse, because you now have to figure out what it will look like, usually through style sheets or HTML/RTF/whatever conversion.

    XML just defines a syntax, no more, you still have to decide what your tags are going to be and how you are going to structure your data. It just offers a standard syntax that XML tools understand, plus the underlying document/data model is a tree, which is quite powerful.

    There are tons of Perl modules that can help you process XML, you can find a 6 month old list on, and note that some of the modules are reviewed in the Module Reviews

by jlawrenc (Scribe) on Sep 14, 2000 at 21:20 UTC
    One a friend of mine who's in sales and marketing said, "Java's great because its not programming.". Hmmmm. I don't think he was alone holding this notion.

    XML could (is) suffer(ing) from much the same thing. I think that people are hoping that they won't have to analyze their information managment requirements. Instead they'll "Just put it into XML". Hmmm.

    One the one hand it may be overkill for certain apps, on the other hand it is a nice way of storing information in a consistent and easy to parse format.

    You're still gonna have to think about what it is that you're managing using XML and what you're gonna do with it. The more complicated your application environment the more effort its gonna require.

    Randy's comments have encouraged me to revisit this for config files that I make. :)

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