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Jargon Buster

  • November 20, 2002
  • By Karl Moore
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This is a good one. It's a buzzword that has been used, overused and completely abused in the past few months. People have written 1500-page books on the matter. Companies in the same industry have banded together to create 'document standards'.

But what exactly is XML? Well, it's a structured method of representing data. And it looks a bit like the source to a HTML page.

Let's take a peek at a sample XML document:

<Customers>  <Customer>    <Forename>Johnny</Forename>    <Surname>Briggs</Surname>  </Customer>  <Customer>    <Forename>Peter</Forename>    <Surname>Rabbit</Surname>  </Customer></Customers>

Here we have two customers listed inside a .XML file, each having a Forename and Surname tag.

Fine, so it's a method of representing structured data. But why is it so brilliant?

First off, actually having structure inside a flat-file is a concept developers have wanted and worked around for a long time. So bringing the XML format on-board as an industry standard is certainly the first plus point.

It's also been hyped as being completely platform-independent. It doesn't matter whether you're reading the information on a Mac or Unix box - so long as you can 'interpret' the XML file, you can speak its language. And that opens up a whole host of new development opportunities.

On the Web front, XML is being used to separate the actual data on a Web page from the presentation layer. In addition to all this, XML is the language used by SOAP. So there we go.

And if you're looking to impress a geekess sometime soon, remember that XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. Another interesting fact there.

If you're wanting to take a stroll down XML Avenue, Microsoft has a parser and further information up for grabs here.

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