XML, a misleadingly simple idea, is quickly becoming convincing proof of a notion weve often championed: Multivendor standards are the right way to do IT. The most novel feature of Extensible Markup Language is, paradoxically, its oldest: namely, its ability to express complex data structures, and even distributed actions, in terms of a simple, punctuated stream of text. Any network component newer than the abacus can send and receive XML; almost any processor has sufficient power to parse it.
Almost any platform can manipulate XML because it has gotten such broad software support, allowing companies to build business-to-business systems without vendor lock-in and with the infrastructure they already have. As the mission of the Internet shifts from delivering static content to enabling dynamic transactions, XML elevates the conversations among Web sites from mere visual gestures to far more interesting ideas.
Thanks to multivendor standards that use XML to coordinate efforts in telecommunications, biotechnology and intellectual property rights, XML is on its way to becoming pervasive.
Were also optimistic about the synergy between XML and Java. Rather than passing around raw binary messages that control the recipient hardwares brain stem, Java/XML-based systems will have both the process of XML parsing and the protection of Javas fine-grained privilege controls to let network nodes think about what theyre being asked to do.
Further, like plants that create their own insecticide, the tree of XML seems to fight off infections by proprietary pests. Microsofts XML-based SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) looked to many observers like a classic “embrace and extend” campaign that would make XML the native language of Microsofts .Net—to the disadvantage of other platforms. To our pleased surprise, though, industry standardization of SOAP appears to be getting genuine benefits from players such as IBM, while even Sun Microsystems Vice President George Paolini spoke highly of SOAP in his keynote speech at Internet World in Los Angeles last month. Amazingly enough, both Suns software strategy road map Sun ONE and Microsofts .Net framework endorse SOAP, and both are producing server products that should work together.
Were hoping that XML will continue to sprout industry-oriented schema that enable competitive but coordinated markets supported by a single standards-based tree. IT buyers should do their part to prune off any incompatible variants and keep XML growing in the direction toward which its so promisingly begun.