NOTE: Since I wrote this, I learned a lot more about the subject and the deal is that it’s RDF, not XML alone that should be all the rave. April 15, 2007
Written for people only as educated in this field as myself (hardly at all). If you are reading this and finding it altogether ignorant, I beg you: INFORM ME! INFORM US ALL! I am still frantically researching this, and I’m learning more and more all the time. I don’t understand all that I read, so I’m like a screwed up mystic, digging through holy texts in foreign languages, confused some of the time, but faithful that the truth I seek is near. Also, keep in mind I never once claimed to be anything more than an artist who suddenly became aware that there is a lot missing from how Web Apps could be working for us (but aren’t)… I became interested in this stuff because of the obvious possibilities of mashing together social networks with media distribution. And the topics I am studying now are for that vary thing and so much more. This post and the others which are now totally obsolete are really just a way for me to take what I’m learning and chew on it in a different way. By making it into something that someone else might be able to understand, it helps me to understand more clearly what it is that I’m trying to wrap my head around.
A sloppy, early draft… still working on this… It’s a part of a letter to a friend of a friend, who is a developer, but so far, seems completely disinterested in this stuff.
SOME THOUGHTS ON XML AND THE FUTURE:
Strengths of XML (Quote from the Wikipedia)
Some features of XML that make it well-suited for data transfer are:
-It is a simultaneously human and machine-readable format;
-It supports Unicode, allowing almost any information in any written human language to be communicated;
-It can represent the most general computer science data structures: records, lists and trees;
-Its self-documenting format describes structure and field names as well as specific values;
-The strict syntax and parsing requirements make the necessary parsing algorithms extremely simple, efficient, and consistent.
XML is also heavily used as a format for document storage and processing, both online and offline, and offers several benefits:
-Its robust, logically-verifiable format is based on international standards;
-The hierarchical structure is suitable for most (but not all) types of documents;
-It manifests as plain text files, unencumbered by licenses or restrictions;
-It is platform-independent, thus relatively immune to changes in technology;
-Its predecessor, SGML, has been in use since 1986, so there is extensive experience and software available.
(End of quote)
Standards aren’t really standard in web development. We, the market, force stamdards to become standard
CSS has been an official standard since 1996, but now, eleven years later, their is still inconsistent support for it’s standards across browsers, so what looks a certain way in one browser, may look completely different in another. The reason for this is that even though ‘standards’ have been put forth, it’s the companies that make browsers that determine what will really work in the real world. I bring this up because similarly, XML has been an official standard since 1997. And despite its vast potential for distributing information, XML has barely crept into popular practice, at least when you consider its potential, which is what I’m attempting to do.
Database compatibility is one reason XML is so important as well as the fact that XML is both machine and human friendly. Also, applications that read XML ignore XML tags they don’t understand. So one file can provide data that is useful for many different applications* (even ones that were never intended in the first place).
The reason I believe this is so important is that it would mean that entire WWW user-habit paradigm would COMPLETELY CHANGE in an awesome way.
But unfortunately, no major advances have been made to shift some of our most important daily resources over to an XML-based, openly distributable form . Consumers, Products, Companies, Social Networks and Media Channels are just a few of these very important missing pieces. The W3C and groups like DIG have long since been trying to influence this shift, but do not have the kind of influence the owners of popular websites, makers of browsers and other private sector entities do. And most websites are built around the idea that content stay put. An advertising market that places value on page views and banner ads dictates that the goal is to bring internet users to the data, instead of bringing data to the users. This will surely change**
But until popular applications induce this shift, it wont become the standard.
Much like how separating Form from Content, as in how CSS works, the widespread use of XML will separate Content from Location. The current model we know so well, in which we regularly go to individual sites that we find via keyword searches, and dig for what interests us, often without knowing if the sites are even trustworthy, is for the most part, nearing its end. This is a reality, not speculation. But how soon we can all enjoy the benefits of this shift is totally up in the air. It all depends on the market (meaning us).*** When it does finally happen, the before-and-after will be as drastic as pre-windows and post-windows (remember MS Dos?), and basically, as far as most of us are concerned, as drastic as pre-internet and post-internet (night-and-day).
*And with the widespread adoption of URIs, applications can create entire databases on the fly by summoning data from any other file on the Web where a given URI is referenced. This will be an environment where every project or simple web query becomes a scalable database of virtually all the data in public existence, tailored to user-created parameters. The potential here is surely more than I can imagine.
**because the technology for a pull-driven, rather than push-driven media distribution scenario is eminent. This also means that advertising as we know it is on the outs. The future I’m detecting will have a completely different advertising marketplace. I have a lot of ideas about how advertisers will take part in our lives in the future but that’s a whole other can of worms. Actually, it’s the same can of worms, but first, let’s get the top of the can off. Let me just say that we can all rejoice in the fact that banner ads and popups will soon seem like something from a distant and much more stupid age.
***This is why I want to find a developer who is as excited as I am about this stuff to help me create an application that I believe can really help push this all along.