Re: XML as a document language

Subject: Re: XML as a document language
From: <puff -at- guild -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 16:04:43 -0400

Sean Brierley (Sean -at- Quodata -dot- Com) writes:
> It seems natural to me that, as a subset of SGML, XML will become a
> documentation standard. Currently, though, XML-based publishing, rendering
> from databases, and the like, seems to start at $10,000 for the necessary
> tools, plus implementation and training. Costs seem to rise exponentially
> from there.

That's because XML-based tools are still very much in the big
corporate space and hence get subjected to both the
custom-implementation cost-inflation effect and the typical snake oil
associated with enterprise software products.

> You can use FrameMaker+SGML to create valid XML output, but I don't know how
> useful that really is.

By itself, minimally useful, but it gets you over the biggest
hump of being able to programmatically manipulate, store, serve, etc,
your documents. One of the weakest areas of XML per se (though not
necessarily the XML tool application space, I haven't done any hunting
for tools at all) is in importing data into XML. Once you have data
in XML, you have some immensely useful, flexible and powerful tools
for manipulating it.

> Also, consider that PostScript is one of, if not the most important
> language of publications; XML does not even pretend to replace
> PostScript.

SVG bids fair to replace Postscript as the XML-based Postscript
for the modern era. This is probably symptomatic of how Ordinary
Mortals (i.e. people who have a life :-) are going to see XML in use -
once-removed, as a foundation on which a bunch of other standards and
products are based and for interoperability layers(*).

I suspect that 10 years from now you're going to see a lot of
entry-level folks who will be boggled by the idea of proprietary
standards, having grown up in a world where most major standards are
based on XML. Though I have no doubt that some companies will strive
mightily to keep that proprietary lock-in advantage.

(* There's already a _major_ trend in the web world for companies
to provide XML transaction interfaces to their products and services,
and several major players trying to stake out that space as their turf
(see "web services", essentially an XML/HTTP based API geared to a
service-level functionality)).

Steven J. Owens
puff -at- guild -dot- net


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