Thursday, November 10, 2011

XML-Free Digital Editions

Playing around with Apache's CouchDB today I realised that it uses JSON, not XML to handle exchanges between client and server. This opens the intriguing possibility of making XML-free digital editions. If the standoff properties for digital texts were also stored using JSON or YAML rather than XML - a simple enough change - then the entire edition could be XML-free. The only thing that comes close is the final conversion into HTML for the browser. But this can be in good old HTML (an SGML dialect) rather than XHTML, an XML dialect. I doubt that anyone has achieved that before, depending on how you define a 'Digital Edition'. By that term I mean an online digital archive of marked up texts accessible over the web. I think this is rather a liberating idea that is actually inevitable. If we believe the XML afficionados disaster will ensue as soon as we abandon 'standards'. Actually what will happen is that digital editions will blossom with the possibilities offered by the new form of digital text. It's time to show people what is possible without XML.