Saturday, December 13, 1997 by Dave Winer.
I was the biggest XML skeptic. Now I'm not.
The press reports say that XML will make the web searchable. But, that's not what it's about! Let me explain...
XML will clean up the HTML mess, but it will have to do this incrementally. It also will be the common transport format between databases running on all platforms. That's huge! And it will be the common, open, discoverable, file format for applications running on desktops. Once stuff is stored in XML nothing can be hidden.
Something amazing is happening here. A bunch of letting go. Hey, everyone's missing the story. Here it is!
One thing that clearly is going to happen with XML is that the browsers from Microsoft and Netscape will support an XML syntax that does the same thing as HTML.
The web developer has his or her choice. Code in HTML, that'll work; or code in XML. I expect that the current HTML syntax will be supported forever, and that new features will have to be added to both formats for quite some time.
This allows the web browser makers to fix bugs. There are some strange HTML constructs they support. Both Netscape and Microsoft should use this opportunity to tighten things up. It'll make it easier to move forward if they don't accept illegal XML constructs.
People will hand-code XML, and new hand-coding tools are possible.
This is a scalable content issue. It pays to separate content from form, so that you can render as HTML or XML depending on what kind of browser is being used.
It's like the Year 2000 problem, something to worry about, something to think about, something to plan for. Soon the browsers are going to understand XML. Will the tools you use make the transition?
XML will also be used as a transport system for objects between databases. In this case, human beings never see the XML, it's generated by software, and on the other end, it's turned into database structures, again by software.
No doubt Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Informix, Sybase, Acius, Claris, et al are wiring up their databases to send and receive XML.This gives us a transport method between databases across platforms. That's pretty exciting!
Last week Microsoft announced that the applications in the Office suite will be storing their files in XML in the next release. That got my interest into super high gear.
This is going to be cleaner and faster than the object model we use on the Mac. Send a request for an object to the app and it sends back the XML code. Then we invisibly turn that into a table structure. You walk the structure, get what you want, and then send back the result, using XML, of course. Makes sense to me.
And don't miss this, Microsoft is opening up their file formats. They can't hide anything in XML, it's all there to be seen and parsed by other apps. Up till now there was no way to do an Excel-compatible spreadsheet, one that could read and write Excel files. Now there will be nothing in the way.
I've written a report entitled "XML and Frontier". It's at:
Busy busy busy.
I think this is really exciting stuff!