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Burton Group says XML standards consolidating

One analyst covering XML used to constantly add new standards to a single PowerPoint slide she used in presentations until the proliferation of standards, mostly beginning in X and often making cute acronyms, overwhelmed the slide and turned it into a black mass.

The good news, according to Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group, is that the flavor-of-the-month time for XML standards may be coming to a merciful end.

'XML is now in the midst of a transformational phase,' he writes in a recently released report, 'XML Modeling and Mapping: Tumultuous Transformation in the Grand Schema of Things,' which Burton Group supplied to XDT. In O'Kelly's opinion, 'the market is rapidly consolidating around a small but significant set of XML standards and artifact types (documents, schemas, styles, and transformations).'

And the winners are -- first of all, obviously, XML itself, which started this meta data revolution when the W3C released it in February 1998, and without which few if any of the subsequent standards could have been written.

Beyond XML, O'Kelly lists four key standards that he calls 'substantive' and 'pivotal.' As listed in the Burton report they are: 

  • XML Schema for defining XML structures in terms of elements, attributes and constraints. 
  • eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) for defining presentation attributes. 
  • XSL Transformation (XSLT) for defining mappings/transformations. 
  • XML Query (XQuery) for defining queries on XML data.

He doesn't say that those are the only XML standards likely to survive. Among the supporting cast of the major standards O'Kelly includes XML InfoSet, XML Namespace and XML Path (XPath).

He also acknowledges that there will continue to be some debate about XML Schema, which O'Kelly said many developers consider 'perversely complex,' leading to the rise of competing standards such as RELAX NG.

However, he predicts that this debate will be rendered moot by the other major XML trend Burton sees emerging: tools that will make XML complexity invisible to developers, much as in his analogy that Adobe has made PostScript a document standard that requires almost no hand coding. O'Kelly points to XML editing tools such as Altova's XMLSpy and Progress' Stylus as leading the way in shielding developers from the complexity of XML standards.

The Burton report predicts: 'XML modeling and mapping tools are accelerating the maturation and expansion of XML by making the power of XML accessible (but invisible, ideally) to a wide range of developers. The tools enable developers to work with visual models and generate XML source code, rather than having to toil with low-level XML coding details.'

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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