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What is XML.?



9:38 am on Jun 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

You might think of me as stupid now, but I really made an effort to look up what XML is, but I never really found a good explanation on the web. I understood like snippets and that it's a "common interface" or something..and that HTML is changing into XHTML so it's XML-compatible (if thats right), but to be honest:

I still don't understand what XML really is. Maybe somebody can give me a quick explanation or post or pm me a link to a definition/explanation of it?



1:16 pm on Jun 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Howdy. Good question.

One of the defining characteristics of the XML community is the inability to adequately answer simple, straightforward questions. This makes it pretty difficult for schlubs like Thee and Mee to larn up on it. You'll rapidly find this out as you try to edjumakate yourself.

XML [xml.com] is a semantic, structural language. Think of it as a language "Lego set." It is a language in its own right, and can be used to describe data structures, in the same manner as JSON [json.org] or BNF [answers.com].

However, what gives XML its true power is its ability to be used as a "meta" language. Using DTDs [w3schools.com] and Schemas [w3schools.com], you can tell XML to act as a data description language (like SVG [adobe.com]), a declarative language (like XSLT [w3.org] or Xaml [msdn2.microsoft.com]) or a page layout language (like XHTML [w3.org]).

XML can be used as a basic underpinning of the Semantic Web [w3.org]. Since every single aspect of an XML-based language is specified in a strict, semantic fashion, computers (simple, plodding, dummies that they are) can understand it. Basically, if you can define something in XML, a computer can understand it. This allows computers to exchange information with each other without the need for human intervention, and with standard tools. You don't need to invent a new parser for your data stream. If you use XML, then chances are good that you'll find one already written, debugged, optimized and embedded in your operating system [xmlsoft.org].

See what I mean about the inability to give an answer to a simple, straightforward question? It's like asking for a glass of water, and having a fire hose shoved in your face.

Welcome to the world of XML.


2:20 pm on Jun 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Hehe thanks for the attempt of giving a simple straightforward answer ;-).

It's actually not all that important to me. I'm mostly into marketing, SEO & Web Analytics...but I think I should also know about the basics of the web.

But if you can tell me, that it's kinda hard to explain and understand in any simple way, I guess Ill be fine without knowing too much about it. Just thought it'd be real embarrassing to not know what XML really is when doing all this internet marketing and e-commerce stuff ;).


2:55 pm on Jun 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

In that case, the simplest answer is that XML is a "meta language." You use it to define data structures and other languages that computers can understand.

The most important thing to understand about XML is that computers speak XML. If you can describe something in XML, then a program can be written that understands it, as opposed to having a human read it and try to make sense of it.


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