Sunday, March 18, 2018

The end of XML

XML is now 20 years old. We might expect the first author of the XML 1.0 specification, Tim Bray, to be enthusiastic about XML's achievements and excited about its prospects for the future. Not a bit of it. In a limp endorsement on Tim tries diplomatically to think up some nice things to say about XML. But by the end of the article he lets out his true feelings:

People did a lot of that with XML just because there was no other alternative and, well… while it worked, you could do better, and in fact we have done better, for weak values of “better”. I wonder if we’ll ever do better still? As the editor of the IETF JSON RFCs, I’m a pessimist.

It’s been OK

Seriously; XML made a lot of things possible that previously weren’t. It has extended the lifetime of big chunks of our intellectual and legal heritage. It’s created a lot of interesting jobs and led to the production of a lot of interesting software. We could have done better, but you always could have done better.

Happy birthday!

I don't think there are any candles on the cake.

HTML is the new XML

More evidence of the disappearance of XML can be found in the new HTML Imports standard published by the W3C. Remember XInclude?

This document specifies a processing model and syntax for general purpose inclusion. Inclusion is accomplished by merging a number of XML information sets into a single composite infoset.

Now we have HTML Imports:

HTML Imports are a way to include and reuse HTML documents in other HTML documents.

Sounds familiar? Of course they are not the same because XML and HTML are not the same but the same basic need that existed when they were busy defining XML standards has now seen yet another instance where HTML is taking on the capabilities of XML. The others are RDFa being redefined for HTML, HTML5 being independent of SGML, CSS 3 Paged Media Module replacing XSL formatting objects. Does the list go on beyond what I know? Probably. One thing is clear: HTML is being made more and more into a replacement for XML in all things. In a couple of more years people will even be asking: 'what is XML?' And the Museum Guide will point to a funny page of complex markup with a stick and everyone will go 'Ooooh!'