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   Why is there little usage of XML on the "visible Web"?

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My take on Roger's original post.

The term "visible web" is already in established use to indicate data that 
is available to search engines versus what isn't because it is held in 
databases that are accessible only through dynamic Web interfaces.

I think the distinction you're approaching is the distinction between 
making XML available to the end user (or their browser) versus making 
X/HTML available to the end user.

For a developer, at the present time, sending XML to the browser may lack 
a certain appeal because of the limits of browser implementation of XSLT, 
particularly XSLT 2.0.  Tools available to the developer on the server-end 
are far more robust and up-to-date.

Another downside, is that you lose a certain amount of flexibility in 
re-purposing the XML.  To get the browser to use a stylesheet, you must 
embed a link to the stylesheet in the XML.  You have to change the source 
XML file if you want to apply multiple transforms, like a full view versus 
a table of contents.

The quality of the semantic data represented by the mark up is variable 
depending on how well the XML (and DTD or schema) are designed.  If the 
user is looking for grocery lists and keys on unordered lists in X/HTML 
they will get a _lot_ of irrelevant data.  Furthermore, X/HTML can now be 
marked up semantically quite well, for example, <ul class="grocery-list">.

The issue of XML versus X/HTML is one of intended applications and their 
capabilities and the quality of the mark up.  Since XML processors, via 
DTDs and schemas, can be told about mark up in a way that X/HTML 
processors cannot, that makes for some sophisticated uses of XML that 
aren't available for X/HTML.

As more and more XML becomes available on the web via services and dynamic 
pages, there will be more and more use for that XML by "end users".  AJAX 
leaps to mind here, which can be used to overcome some of the limitation 
of current browsers.  As long as XML is available via a URL, then 
Javascript in the browser can make use of that data and make it available 
as rendered X/HTML in a variety of ways.

The usefulness of XML and X/HTML to browsers is limited only by our 
imaginations and our capacity for good design.  What helps here is a 
thorough knowledge of our current tools and their capacities and limits.

Chris Gray
Systems Analyst
University of Waterloo Library

"One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to
do and always a clever thing to say."
 	--Will Durant


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