W3C Launches XProc Spec

The World Wide Web Consortium announces the availability of the XProc specification for managing XML-rich processes such as business processes used in enterprise computing environments.

The World Wide Web Consortium has announced the availability of a new tool, called XProc, "for managing XML-rich processes such as business processes used in enterprise computing environments."

"The specification, 'XProc: An XML Pipeline Language,' provides a standard framework for composing XML processes [and] streamlines the automation, sequencing and management of complex computations involving XML," W3C said in a news release May 11.

"XML is tremendously versatile," Norman Walsh, lead engineer at Mark Logic and one of the co-editors of the XProc specification, said in a statement. "Just off the top of my head, I can name standard ways to store, validate, query, transform, include, label and link XML. What we haven't had is any standard way to describe how to combine them to accomplish any particular task. That's what XProc provides."

W3C said, "XProc can be used, for example, to sequence the following set of operations: (1) Given a news ticker feed, (2) whenever a company is mentioned, use a Web service to contact a stock exchange, then (3) insert current share prices into the feed and (4) insert background information about the company that has been extracted from a database. In addition, this enhanced feed could be presented in several ways to multiple users, including (5) for print or (6) with an interactive form so that people can purchase shares online. In this scenario, XProc controls a number of processes that might be implemented using other standards such as XQuery, XSLT, XSLT-FO, XForms and HTML."

XML as ubiquitous in enterprise computing environments, as, W3C said, it is "used to store, transform and exchange an enormous range of information, from tax returns to fuel tank levels. Many business processes can be modeled as a series of operations, each of which involves XML input or output. Many companies use these models for many purposes, such as ensuring quality controls are met or assembling compliance reports.

"W3C published the first XML standard in 1998. Since then, W3C has standardized a number of core operations on XML including validation (Schema languages), query (XQuery), transformation (XSLT) and linking (XLink). Business processes combine and build on these core operations, but there has been no standard to describe such sequences. Instead, ad-hoc solutions have been used, which are not easily shared (e.g., with others in a supply chain) and do not leverage widely deployed tools or support."

Yet, W3C said, "Because XProc descriptions are in XML, people can use readily available XML tools to generate, transform and validate them."

"Processing XML as XML is a hugely powerful design pattern, and XProc makes this easy and attractive," said Henry Thompson, a reader at University of Edinburgh, and one of the co-editors of the XProc specification. "XProc exemplifies what W3C does best: We looked at existing practice-people have been using a number of similar-but-different XML-based languages-and we produced a consensus standard, creating interoperability and critical mass."

W3C also said, "XProc is supported by a test suite that covers all of the required and optional steps of the language as well as all the static and dynamic errors."

In other XML-related news, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has upheld patent infringement claims against Microsoft brought by i4i. On May 11, the PTO rejected claims on a potentially Office-related patent that Microsoft asked the agency to reexamine.

This is another in a series of setbacks Microsoft has experienced in the case, including i4i being awarded some $300 million-a decision has Microsoft appealed. At the heart of the dispute is Microsoft's custom XML technology, which was included in older versions of Microsoft Word.