[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[DotGNU]On the importance of XML (was: [arch-users] In defense...)

From: Norbert Bollow
Subject: [DotGNU]On the importance of XML (was: [arch-users] In defense...)
Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2003 01:05:56 +0200 (CEST)

[ I've deleted the arch-users list from the Cc: because I think
  that my present posting isn't relevant to that list ]

Seth Johnson <address@hidden> wrote:

> Arch is a community working at a different level from the XML/web
> services world.  They're naturally inclined to see the XML stuff as
> overhyped syntactic sugar.  All XML is, is an agreement about how to
> talk about data structure.  A lot of the hype is really just "the
> stuff that's possible now that we agree to talk this language."

Yes.  While I'd agree in some sense with the statement "XML got
overhyped" (see below for details), I also think that XML is worthy
of the hype.

The important thing about XML isn't a matter of syntactic sugar.
In fact I don't like that <tag> ... </tag> markup language style at
all, that is really hard to parse efficiently, it's inconvenient to
edit by hand, and transmitting both the "<tag>" and the "</tag>"
over the wire is a waste of bandwidth too.  This "markup language
style" is just an accident of history, it's something that XML
inherited from HTML.

No, the important thing about XML is what the "X" stands for:

  With XML we're talking about data in such a way that data
  formats can be eXtended without breaking existing applications.

This is highly significant, and worthy of being emphasized again.

Now there are many ways in which this could be achieved; it would
be easy to design a replacement for XML which can be parsed much
more efficiently (for example, by using Dan Bernstein's Netstrings
instead of the <tag> ... </tag> markup syntax), or alternatively
one could easily design a replacement format which is more suitable
for editing by hand.  (However, achieving both of these goals at the
same time would probably be a difficult if not impossible task.)
Since XML really isn't good from either perspective I think it's
clear that XML could be improved upon.  However XML has had so much
hype that I wouldn't expect such improvements to gain widespread
usage.  In that sense XML got "overhyped".  The situation would be
different if the shortcomings of XML were so serious that one just
couldn't live with them.  But it's not like that; XML is good
enough to be useful.

As with any technology however it is important to be aware of the
limits of usefulness.  Users should not have to edit XML files by
hand.  And big chunks of data should not be included in XML, it's
much better to include instead an URL that specifies how the data
can be downloaded, and if it's binary data that avoids the need to
base64 it, too.

Greetings, Norbert.

Founder & Steering Committee member of
Free Software Business Strategy Guide   --->
Norbert Bollow, Weidlistr.18, CH-8624 Gruet (near Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel +41 1 972 20 59        Fax +41 1 972 20 69

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]