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Subject: Re: Essay on XML and SGML
From: "John E. Simpson" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:General discussion of Extensible Markup Language <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 6 May 1998 13:07:18 -0400
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BK --

>Anyone know of a good essay that says
>in non-technical terms why XML is the "next big thing"?

Umm, there's a world of weight in that simple "non-technical" qualifier. If
your audience truly is non-technical, then you're going to have to lay a
lot of groundwork on fundamental things like the benefits of network
resources over local, the value of separating content from form, why text
markup as opposed to proprietary binary solutions, the history of the
Internet, and so on, on up through hypertext and SGML in particular before
you even get to XML per se.

Given some basic Web and other technical knowledge in the audience, though,
I might summarize some of the advantages (in no particular order) like this:

* Content- and structure-driven rather than display-driven
* Interoperability (to a greater or lesser extent) with existing Web and
document-management technologies (HTML, SGML, CSS...)
* Truly platform-neutral (although supported, actually or as promised, by
major vendors)

IMO XML is also a big leap forward for the Web in exactly the same way that
databases are a big leap forward over plain-old documents. However, not
that using this argument probably presupposes that the audience understand
why you'd want to use a database instead of a document or spreadsheet in
the first place; and it's also true that not every document stands to gain
by representation of its contents in database form.)

Just about any XML book on the market so far includes a "Why XML?" section.
The fall '97 W3 Journal contains excellent introductions to some of these
questions. You might also refer to:

* Jon Bosak's essay on "XML, Java, and the future of the web," at:
        http://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/sun-info/standards/xml/why/xmlapps.htm
* The brief overview of XML on Robin Cover's SGML/XML site:
        http://www.sil.org/sgml/xml.html#overview
* The XML FAQ, by Peter Flynn:
        http://www.ucc.ie/xml/

John E. Simpson
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