XML Becomes Pervasive on the Web

by Kevin Farnham

I attended the Web 2.0 Expo last week, representing the AOL Developer Community. One thing that stands out for me is -- not only is XML experiencing a kind of "renaissance" (renewed interest in XSLT, application of microformats as a mechanism for creating the uncapitalized "semantic web," revived XML-related standards activity, etc.) -- but in a very real sense, XML has become pervasive on the Web. It's become a natural part of every Web developer's toolkit.

In a sense, you can no longer put "XML" on your resume in the list of technologies you understand. Yes, it's been that way for a while, but what I mean is that today there are new complexities, new mechanisms which utilize XML, and these are moving to the forefront, becoming a "standard" means for distributing data and interfacing applications on the Web. Hence, for a Web developer to say "I know XML" will prompt a well-deserved "well, duh!" response from any other Web developer.

Even in cases where the technologies themselves aren't brand new, their application is growing. For example, ProgrammableWeb.com founder John Musser presented a slide in his "API And Mashup Best Practices" session that suggested that large companies that have APIs increasingly consider it critical to offer a REST version of their APIs. 68% of the APIs were accessible using REST, compared with 40% using SOAP, with Javascript, XML-RPC, Atom, and proprietary interfaces all in the single digits. (The totals exceed 100% because many APIs provide multiple interface methods.) The conclusion is that the user community increasingly expects to be able to access APIs using REST, and in response vendors are making the effort to provide a REST interface to their APIs. REST apparently is considered the most efficient and easiest-to-work-with API interface by developers.

There was not a single session (as far as I'm aware) that was "about" XML or XSLT or REST. There was a session about microformats. Yet XML as a data transport and/or application interface device was an element in almost every code-centric session I attended.



2007-04-23 13:15:31
That was the holy grail for a long long time: XML as a checkbox on an RFP or resume. Then XML-applied-to-X as a series of checkmarks. Then for it to become invisible plumbing.

It never quite gets to the last phase, but it's mighty close. I've been doing markup since 8879 was a draft, designed with it for years, yet am writing my first tutorial blog for 3D On the Web XML finally, and actually, what I wanted the whole time since I was involved in CAD in the 80s. So wait around long enough and keep pushing the buttons, it all comes around.

Microformats in XML: bad juju and a bad idea where that means non-XML structured attribute content. It always bites someone and it always pops out in some orthogonal part of the software. It introduces unreliability into what is an otherwise scalable reliability technique: Draconian parsing. Nyet.

2007-04-30 10:12:11
XML technologies seem to have grown into a holistic approach, evolving in every tier of a web application as I mention on my blog: "RIAs favour XML technologies throughout all Web Application Tiers..?" http://synodinos.wordpress.com/2007/04/23/rias-favour-xml-technologies-throughout-all-web-application-tiers/