Jon Udell's latest article entitled "The Social Life of XML" is a lucid reminder of the potential contextual capabilities of XML in a document context verses a payload context (e.g., web services), and a refreshing overview of XML from a usage, rather than technical or grammatical perspective.
Some extracts from the article follow.
Of course I agreed with all the reasons the panel thought XML was important: for web services, for interprocess communication, and for business process automation. But I also thought XML was important for a whole different set of reasons that weren't on the conference's agenda. I thought XML was important for end-user applications, for human communication, and for personal productivity.
The really important thing, it seems to me, is the way the XML document can become a shared construct, a tangible thing that processes and people can pass around and interact with.
Documents, including the purchase order and the messages related to it, aren't just passive carriers of information. They're the warp on which we weave a socially constructed reality. Somehow, we need to find ways to connect that reality to the workflow and process orchestration systems now being invented.
Weblogs are arguably the best examples we have of XML connecting people to other people in information-rich contexts. But while the glue that holds the weblog universe together is an XML application called RSS, it's really only a thin wrapper of metadata around otherwise opaque content.
Back in 2001, at that other convention I mentioned, somebody asked Tim Bray when XML would replace HTML on the Web. Here was his answer:
Nobody thought for a microsecond that HTML would be replaced, and I don't think HTML will be replaced in my lifetime. It is the single most successful document format ever devised for delivering information electronically to humans. The population of computer users has voted for it overwhelmingly. I like it, I use it, I can't see why you'd want to stop using it.
I completely agree. And since we are going to keep on using HTML, it behooves us to find smarter and better ways to use it. XHTML is one of those smarter and better ways.
Here's another idea. The emerging web services network is radically open -- not only because the messages exchanged on that network are XML, but also because the services are connected using pipelines. We can inject intermediaries into those pipelines; the intermediaries can observe and act on the messages. So we can acquire a lot of useful context, and can implement useful policy, by reading and writing what goes by on the wire. Read
. Read more by Jon Udell