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Does XML 1.0 "Suck"?

Does XML 1.0 "Suck"?

(July 21, 2003) - When the CEO of a well-known company trying to get Web services to take off claims that XML sucks, what are Web services developers supposed to make of the claim?

XML 1.0 isn't the lingua franca it's cracked up to be, Mike Plusch from Clear Methods is claiming, it's "unreliable, ambiguous, verbose, and isn't designed to work with logic and complex data structures," he says.

Plusch is offering his own cure, the perfect drink as it were for those thirsty for a techno-fix: and he is branding it, simply, Water.

Developer Colin Saxton, of the UK-based integration software company Exel Computer Systems plc, agrees that XML is bloated. "I would go as far as saying that XML should not have been developed as a text specific document," he says.

"Why did they not agree on a specification to represent data in binary format instead of text?" Saxton asks. "Developers from all over the world could then have written general purpose editors to decode the data and represent it in text form but store the data in a nice and compact format."

Saxton is cruelly ironic, as he summons up a tongue-in-cheek scenario, purporting to be the way the W3C must have worked back in 1998.

"I know, we will create a new data representation format for Web services and we will base this new format on SGML? Doh...!!! This idea obviously must have started from someone who has shares in networking since Web services based on XML will increase bandwidth enough for them to have to re-cable the world?"

IBM's Max B Klau says that he has "long suspected that XML will go the way of SQL -balkanization, probably worse."

"It's not surprising," Klau explains, "that one has to read and understand the ever verbose and obscure and evolving XML specs to do anything useful. XML was once a child with great promise to solve certain problems. But like any teen idol pushed into stardom, it attempted to solve too many things, some it was not well-suited for."

"The joke among developers," says Klau, "is to XML-ize every thing they can get their hands on. For example, I was wondering why some products use XML for a small .ini file that can be more easily read and configure in value-pairs format, rather than forcing user to strain their eyes to read XML <> brackets. For high-speed data exchange, why not standardize some "self-described" binary-based format? Since XML substrate is now typically consume by machine, not humans, the ASCII-based XML is doomed to be slow."

One developer who thinks everybody's getting it wrong is M. Saleem Khan Suri, who says that, in his view, "Most of us are using XML in the wrong way."

"It's not for display but for parsing," he says, adding: "The important stuff here is that the Microsoft .NET is totally based on XML and its against the practice of Microsoft to follow such a standard. So the important question is: is Microsoft going to sell its .NET platform with XML? Or will they launch something named MSXML (Microsoft XML) for the sake of monopoly?"

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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