Why XML Hasn’t Cured Our Ills or Saved the World


After lunch and a little bit of work-related email, I went to Randy Ray‘s Why

XML Hasn’t Cured Our Ills or Saved the World (slides).

The talk centered around five things Ray thinks we do wrong with XML:

  1. People are too quick to use XML.

    You have to aks yourself if it’s really necessary. Is it just for


    • If there is no reason other than the fact that there are XML

      parsers, then there probably is a simpler solution

    • If only a single consumer, there may be a more economical solution.
  2. People are too slow to use XML.
    • Plan ahead for more than one customer of data?
    • If another part of the system is already using XML for a more

      “legitimate” task, why not use XML for other things, too?

      (i.e. configuration data)

    • It isn’t always an extra cost. If the data format (and therefore

      the parser) would be sufficiently complex, maybe using an XML parser

      would be easier?

  3. Lack of cooperation or sharing.
    • Not often due to malice, perhaps lack of central authority. Who

      moderates DTD repositories? Registries on xml.com and xml.org contain

      outdataed information, and UDDI is too business-centric.

    • Example: difficult to find schema for recipies. Had to wade through

      3 pages of Google results to eventually find RecipeML

    • Intellectual Property issues. For example, Microsoft hasn’t

      openened up the XML formats for Office 2003. Compare to open formats

      like DocBook

  4. Misunderstanding the application of XML
    • XML is the “NetPBM” of generic data. (NetPBM broke new ground in

      image file format transformations by reducing an N * M problem

      to N + M).

    • People think that XML is only for “document” data.
  5. People want to make XML hard.
    • Tough topics make money. How can businesses sell

      books/tools/software/training/services when customers think that XML is

      “easy”? Vested interest in making it complicated.

In conclusion, Ray mused that no one technology is (yet) a universal solution and XML is no different when it comes data formats. His charge to the audience: just think about XML before using (or not using) it. Self-described experts don’t necessarily have all the answers.