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Thursday, November 17, 2005

XML and the reuse of data in multiple processes 

Sean McGrath
As Walter Perry points out regularly on xml-dev, the real value of XML is that it reduces the extent to which I force any one processing model onto others. This enables re-use and innovation in a way that, say, application sharing does not.

The price we pay for this freedom is that designers of XML languages need to find ways to communicate "processing expectations" or "processing models" separately from the data.

It is still the case today that the true meaning of a chunk of markup is dependent on what some application actually *does* with it. It is not in the data itself. For example, I can create rtf, xml, csv files that are completely valid per the markup requirements but "invalid" because they fail to meet particular processing models in rtf/xml/csv-aware applications.

This is one reason why HTML as a Web concept (forget about markup for the moment) and XML as a Web concept are so different. With HTML the processing model was a happy family of 1, namely, "lets get this here content rendered nicely onto the screen". With XML the processing model is an extended family of size...infinity. Who knows what the next guy is going to do with the markup? Who knows what the next processing model will be? Who knows whether or not my segmentation of reality into tags/attributes/content will [meet] the requirements of the next guy.

Topics: XML | Representation | Workflow | Meaning


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