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   Re: Inheritance in XML (was Re: Problems parsing XML)

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  • From: Jeff Larson <jeff@texcel.no>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 14:03:16 -0500

At 11:52 AM 4/17/98 -0400, Frank Manola wrote:
>These observations about the (at least so far) lack of success with truly
>interoperable APIs are certainly true, and the potential of interoperable
>syntax "feels" right, but I wonder to what extent we may be comparing
>apples and oranges here.  Specifically, what do we mean by "interoperable"?
>Interoperable APIs are hard at least in part because an incredible amount
>of semantics are (implicitly) built into a typical API (as is suggested by
>Matthew's comment).

This nicely points out something that's been bothering me about all
the fervor surrounding XML as a format for data representation.
Having your data expressed in XML does not necessarily make it any
less proprietary than having it in a nasty old binary file.  I contend
that the utility of XML diminishes as the complexity of the data model

Take for example an Excel spreadsheet.  This is essentially the binary
serialization of a complex data structure.  Assume that magically this
becomes an XML document, what now?  You can't reason about this in any
meaningful way without understanding the semantics of every element.
Assuming the semantics are documented, you might be able to extract
information from it (which makes it worth having), but it is doubtful
that you can modify it reliably.  In theory we're now "free" to
implement our own spreadsheet editor on top of this "open" data model,
but is that really going to happen?  No, we'll continue to use
the API provided by the vendor because its the implementation of the
semantics that's the hard part.

Certainly there is a lot that can and should be done with XML, but I'm
not convinced its any universal data representation panacea.  


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