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XML and Windows 2000: Is it hype or a panacea for e-commerce?

XML and Windows 2000: Is it hype or a panacea for e-commerce?

By Laura B. Smith

Microsoft has been a leader in XML development, partly to compete with Sun's Java. Its .Net next generation Internet platform will provide tools for creating Web exchanges that accept and deploy applets wrapped in XML.

As buzzwords go, XML has been in good company with TCP/IP and HTML. Most people recognize the acronyms as Internet-related technologies, but the buzzwords themselves aren't on the same trajectory as, say, "client/server" or "e-business." Well, the buzz surrounding XML is getting louder as industry prophets are now proclaiming it the ASCII of the Internet.

Since its introduction, XML has been hyped as the panacea to e- commerce. Several e-commerce developers have come out with platforms using versions of the W3C standard. Ariba's cXML4 (Commercial XML) and Commerce One's CBL (Common Business Library) are two examples. The situation is reminiscent of the fractious marketing that Unix suffered before Linux came along to hopefuly solidify that market.

Where HTML describes the look of a page, XML defines the data, whether they are prices, say, weights or algorithms. XML can automate actions and link Web pages in ways that would require new coding by programmers using traditional technology, according to analysts at Mainspring, in Cambridge, Mass. Next-generation operating systems will deeply understand XML and treat the Web as a programmable resource. This will enable the drag-and-drop assembly of applications.

Unlike HTML, which uses a rather loose coding style and is tolerant of coding errors, XML pages have to be "well formed," which means they must comply with rigid rules. Here's an example of XML and HTML tags. Note that XML defines "what it is," and HTML defines "how it looks."


  Discovering XML
    The definitive book on XML.




Discovering XML

The definitive book on XML.

Laura B. Smith is a contributing editor based in Swampscott, Mass.

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