XML: What Lies Ahead?

eWEEK Asia gets up close with Kong Fook Wai, chairman of XMLone User Group.

If youre keen to find out what are the issues and challenges facing XML and Web Services in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region, make a date with XML Asia 2003, which will be held at the Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore on Sept. 10. In its third year, XML Asia 2003 will play host to some 600 senior IT executives from all industries. The event is organized by XMLone User Group and supported by SiTF Web Services Chapters and National Infocomm Competency Centre (NICC) in Singapore. To find out just what to expect at the conference, eWEEK Asia Editor Stephen Yeo chatted with Kong Fook Wai, chairman of XMLone User Group, about various aspects of XML.

eWEEK Asia: What are the key benefits of using XML over some other data representation format?

Kong: XML is designed to provide dynamic data storage and retrieval on the Internet. HTML is unable to meet this business transaction requirement as HTML is static and does not allow for flexible data representation. As we discover the benefits of doing business using the Internet, the demand for interactive multimedia transmission is high and XML working with other technologies is able to provide the basis in the backend system for storage and retrieval of such data online.

If you extrapolate this dynamic process, you will notice that XML or its variants, i.e. cHTML, allows smaller devices like PDAs to work as interactive terminal equivalents to a desktop. There will be other constraints like bandwidth, but I will not discuss this here. XML also allows semantic data representation from the user, and this makes XML easier to read and understand the data format. Therefore, XML standards are important in the successful use of this technology.

eWEEK Asia: While XML is good for many things, especially quantitative answers, some critics have commented that it is not good enough when it comes to qualitative answers. What is your take on this?

Kong: When you refer to quantitative versus qualitative answers, I believe you are referring to sieved information. XML is still a very new area to work on by researchers. What we have today is data representation from the backend system. There are companies that work on XML Query Language or XQL to make retrieval of meaningful information. However, we do have to add Artificial Intelligence to the XML system to produce qualitative information. This is possible with time.

On the other hand, if you look at how XML acts as the core engine in Web services, you will notice that XML working with technologies like SOAP, WSDL, UDDI and others, meaningful information can be reproduced for users. Web Services allow an integrated intra-organization networks that is the key to collaborative commerce or c-commerce. Web services will provide this IT infrastructure for sieved information where users are able to shorten search time on the Internet. You are able to find out more about Web Services in our coming XML Asia 2003.

eWEEK Asia: Will XML ever replace HTML? Is it possible to change an HTML-based Web page into XML?

Kong: I am aware there are software developers who are using XML instead of HTML in their Web pages. This is possible.

eWEEK Asia: How will XML Asia 2003 help in the adoption of XML in this part of the world?

Kong: The charter of XMLone User Group (UG) is to promote use of XML in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region. XMLone UG organises XML Asia 2003 for the third year running this year for IT and business professionals who are interested in XML technologies. We continue to work with our sponsors like IBM, Microsoft, Sun [Microsystems], Cisco and many more in promoting the adoption of XML and its applications. In fact, if you notice what IT leaders have envisaged on a global workplace, we are now closer to making this happen with Web Services.

XMLone UG also works closely with IDA, ITSC and NICC Singapore. We explore new ways to improve our intellectual capital and adoption of this technology by the industry, so as to establish acceptable XML norms. We will make announcement on our achievements when the time is appropriate, especially during XML Asia 2003 conference. XMLone UG is meant to represent end user interests.

eWEEK Asia: Growing complexity has been cited as a big threat to XMLs development. Going forward, what do you think are the major challenges facing XML?

Kong: There will always be challenges to XML and its variants. Internet is an evolution from SGML, HTML, XML and its variants. The complexity that follows in Web Services is a major challenge, not a threat to XML. XML provides the core engine for data repre-sentation in Web Services today. XML and its variants will continue to act in this capacity as the basis for research scientists and engineers to explore business productivity with other technologies. The existence of XML is purely due to a demand for business transaction over the Internet. I believe there will be enhancements over XML for dynamic data structures, commands and third-party business intelligence incorporated, as we are familiar with XML. We shall see.