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Microsoft MVPs Petition for XQuery Support in Whidbey

When Microsoft announced in January that it was dropping XQuery support from the next release of the .NET Framework, the company’s reasoning seemed sound enough: XQuery will not receive final approval from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body shepherding its development, until early 2006. But the .NET Framework 2.0 (code-named “Whidbey”) is due this summer, which means that Microsoft will be finalizing the code well before XQuery becomes a W3C recommendation, “making it impossible,” says Microsoft, “for us to guarantee forward compatibility between any XQuery support in .NET 2.0 and the eventual XQuery 1.0 recommendation.”

But some XQuery users are hoping to get Microsoft to reconsider its decision. DataDirect Technologies, a provider of data connectivity components and XML development tools, issued an online petition this week, which it hopes will “convince Microsoft of the overall importance of supporting XQuery in the .NET framework.” As of Monday, the “XQuery for All” campaign had garnered a reported 140 petition signatures from members of Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professionals (MVPS) program.

Developed by the W3C, XQuery (short for XML Query Language) is a powerful and convenient language designed for processing XML data—not just files in XML format, but also other data, including databases whose structure (nested, named trees with attributes) is similar to XML. It is used to extract data from real and virtual documents and collections, both locally and on the World Wide Web. Although the W3C has not yet finalized the standard, XQuery is already widely used and is expected to become as popular for querying XML documents as SQL is for relational databases.

But XQuery is more than just a cool database query language, says Larry Kim, XML products manager at DataDirect. XQuery is actually an important middleware integration technology for simplifying Web services and implementing SOAs. In fact, DataDirect sees XQuery as a core infrastructure component that is, in the words of the petition, “too important a technology to be dropped from Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0...”

“That’s why it’s so important that we, the community of XQuery developers, make XQuery a priority for Microsoft,” Kim tells ProgrammingTrends. “An online petition seemed to be a good way to do that, and to raise awareness of the potential of XQuery.”

DataDirect acknowledges that Microsoft hasn’t abandoned XQuery altogether. The Redmond software giant is a longtime supporter of the language, currently serves as a member of the W3C XQuery standards committee and has publicly committed to helping to complete the standards work. And Microsoft has announced plans to ship a subset of XQuery in SQL Server (“Yukon”) 2005.

“No question, Microsoft has been a real driving force behind XQuery,” Kim says. “And they deserve a lot of credit for that. We just think we’re seeing something in the market right now that they’re not.”

What DataDirect is seeing is customers using XQuery 1.0. Lots of them. In a recent survey of 550 XML developers from small, medium and large companies conducted by DataDirect, 52 percent of respondents said they have already started working with XQuery 1.0, and another 33 percent plan to start using it in 2005.

And other large software vendors, including Oracle and IBM, are supporting XQuery 1.0 in upcoming versions of their enterprise-class products. Oracle expects to have a full implementation with release 2 of the Oracle 10g Database later this summer. IBM plans to provide full XQuery support in the follow-up to its Stinger DB2 Universal Database release, due sometime before 2006. Both companies are W3C XQuery standards committee members.

DataDirect (also a W3C committee member) hopes to use the online petition to convince Microsoft of the value of supporting XQuery in the .NET framework. To do this, Kim says, “we must clearly articulate both the business and technical cases for XQuery.” Consequently, along with signatures, DataDirect is soliciting XQuery use cases. “Tell us how and why you use XQuery so we can share that knowledge with the rest of the world in the form of real-world use cases,” the company’s Web site reads, “or contact Microsoft directly. Once we have objective proof of what our gut tells us, we can respectfully ask that Microsoft re-affirm their support for XQuery in the .NET Framework 2.0 and provide some guidance about future planned support. Hearing about an XQuery product roadmap for the .NET Framework would be music to our ears.”

The need is particularly pressing, Kim says, because the .NET Frameworks ships only about every three years. That means it’ll be 2009 before XQuery could make it into the core framework of the next release. To date, Microsoft has not committed to supporting XQuery in any future version of .NET.

No one from Microsoft was available for comment at press time.

For a FAQ page about the “XQuery for All” campaign, go to: www.stylusstudio.com/xquery/xquery_for_all_faq.html.
To see a list of MVP petition signatories, go to: www.stylusstudio.com/xquery/petition.html.
Developers can sign the petition online at: www.stylusstudio.com/xqueryforall.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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