Sunday, December 5th, 2010

XML versus the Web again

Category: JSON

At least in terms of cool Web stuff, JSON replaced XML long ago. But the story keeps trickling down. Semi-pivotal events appear to be recent moves by Twitter and Foursquare to remove XML support from their Web APIs, settling solely on JSON. In the wake, no less than XML crew member James Clark has taken a slightly more appreciative stance on JSON. XML grew too complex, he admits. It doesn’t work well with programming language data structures, he concedes. Still, the occasion is also an occasion for some equivocating, or whimsy. He wonders if there is a place for XML in the brave new Web world of the future.
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Writes James Clark:

… I think the Web community has spoken, and it’s clear that what it wants is HTML5, JavaScript and JSON. XML isn’t going away but I see it being less and less a Web technology; it won’t be something that you send over the wire on the public Web, but just one of many technologies that are used on the server to manage and generate what you do send over the wire.

And he continues:

…In the short-term, I think the challenge is how to make HTML5 play more nicely with XML. In the longer term, I think the challenge is how to use our collective experience from building the XML stack to create technologies that work natively with HTML, JSON and JavaScript, and that bring to the broader Web developer community some of the good aspects of the modern XML development experience.

XML vs the Web – Clark’s Random Thoughts blog

Posted by jvaughan at 3:53 pm

3.3 rating from 8 votes


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It would be unnecessary to hack around the issue to make HTML5 play more nicely with XML if it were XML to begin with. The slightly simplified syntax of HTML isn’t advantageous enough to justify throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Most arguments for HTML5 over XML are akin to picking a programming language on the basis of whether or not it uses curly braces, and then inventing a new language that’s less powerful and less interoperable solely for that reason.

XML can be big and complicated, as to be expected – it’s extensible. You don’t have to know or use all of it, at it’s core it’s not overly complex. JSON has it’s place and I do agree that it can be superior for data serialization from programming languages, but it isn’t a replacement for XML. They complement one another nicely in fact. HTML5 on the other hand is utter braindamage and currently the XML variants of it are kicking the pants off HTML in semantic web technologies, which I don’t see changing any time soon.

Comment by ormaaj — December 5, 2010

Very insightful post/article from Mr. Clark. I’ll continue to use XML/XSL on the server side as a common data source when transitioning/adapting between disparate databases/soap-services/view-models, but from the HTTP client, the power of JSON (and by extension, RESTful operations) is driven by its succinct simplicity.

Comment by MadManMoon — December 6, 2010

I think what format of data you’re returning really depends on what your API is for. What is best for the ‘web’ is kindof missing the point as you may have the same networked API driving a website, a mobile app, maybe an e-reader. Whatever. So which is the one best technology is kindof a hammer vs screw debate.

Comment by tack — December 6, 2010

I feel that broader support for E4X would go a long way towards improving the use of XML via JavaScript on the client… Being limited to the implementations in Mozilla’s JS engines, and Adobe’s AS3 (needs work there), it really sucks… getting it into V8 at least would help with server-side NodeJS projects.

Comment by tracker1 — December 6, 2010

I found this cool XML to JSON converter/remapper the other day and haven’t used it yet, but I’m sure I will, and no doubt it will be of interest to others:—now-RSS-friendly-144

Comment by MarcusT — December 6, 2010

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