XML Developers Push for Simplicity

Add functionality only when you have to, XML co-inventor Tim Bray urges at the Applied XML DevCon. Others add that developers "hate systems that force XML to be more than data."

STEVENSON, Wash—Its always refreshing to attend a deeply technical conference, at which the experts instruct each other, disagree publicly and challenge one anothers opinions. Instead of showing off shiny new functionality or imperfect features polished to a mirror surface, the developers at the Applied XML Developers Conference are demonstrating the problems yet to be solved in XML and Web services.

Still, the technical presentations make it clear that they agree on fundamental development truths: The data outlasts the code, you wont find much reality in any industry spec, and simplicity is always better than (even elegant) complexity.

One weakness upon which most presenters agree is the ineffectiveness of XML Schema, which Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems (and co-inventor of XML), described as "totally beyond its sell by date."

Chris Anderson, an architect on the MS Windows client platform team working on the technologies code-named "Avalon," said developers "hate systems that force XML to be more than data." His answer: XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language), which "provides a format to facilitate between developers and designers … a unified way to build applications to leverage markup."

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about the time frame for Avalon, Longhorns presentation-layer subsystem.

Sam Ruby, senior technical staff member in the Emerging Technologies group at IBM, spent 45 minutes showing other experts how "the standards dont reflect reality; reality has moved on," particularly in regard to Unicode. Even when default encodings for HTML, XML and Microsoft are different, and XML Namespaces requires that the URI examples be considered distinct, System.Uri.Equals may return "true."

Not every aspect of XML is judged to be a potential disaster—far from it. Two presentations have demonstrated how XML is enabling solutions in the real world: one from the U.S. Department of Defense on using XML for Navy missile systems, and a presentation from Scott Hanselman and Patrick Cauldwell of Corillian about effectively using XML in financial systems.

Next Page: Long-term results?