[svlug] XML vs HTML

Dan Martinez dfm at area.com
Sun Jul 8 23:02:02 PDT 2001


Karl F. Larsen wrote:

> I have been reading about a new file markup system called XML. There
> are books out on the language that are not real expensive.
> 
> HTML is a good language that was easy to learn and I have several
> web pages written with HTML.
> 
> My question to you is, as web designers, have you found a good
> reason to switch from HTML to XML? What are the reasons?

XML isn't a markup language. It's a specification for the creation of
markup languages, which are known as "applications". There are many
XML applications already, with more appearing on a regular basis. A
few, off the top of my head:

  MathML: A markup language for the expression of mathematical
	  formulae.

  SyncML: A markup language for platform- and application-neutral
	  data synchronization, such as between PDAs and desktops.

  RDF:    As defined by the the W3C itself, "a lightweight ontology
	  system to support the exchange of knowledge on the Web."
	  Used by everything from Internet Explorer's Channel system
	  (bleah) to rpmfind.

  XHTML:  An XML-compliant re-implementation of HTML. It provides some
	  syntactic cleanups, and begins enforcing some longstanding
	  HTML rules (such as those regarding nesting for instance)
	  that hardly anyone bothered observing up 'til now.


The XML hype isn't quite as bad these days as it used to be, but a
rant a friend wrote some years back about a particularly egregious
"XML will make absolutely everything interoperable!" piece on CNN is
still worth reading. I'll close with that:

	CNN talks in glowing terms about what XML could bring in a few
	years if everyone got their act together, and acts like it
	will be ready for you to use in just months.

	XML is like ODBC. It's just an enabling technology. It doesn't
	do anything cool on its own. About all it does is let you
	write a parser and have a pretty good idea that the parser
	will work. That's powerful, but knowing what to do with what
	you just parsed is something entirely different.

	Put in different terms, this article is essentially saying
	"now that we have VHS, anyone can instantly view and
	understand all videotapes," without touching on things like
	PAL, SECAM, NTSC, differences in spoken languages, or the fact
	that French Surrealist films are just not interchangable with
	industrial training videos.

	Repeat after me:

	THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET.
				    -- Faisal Jawdat

Dan




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