Proposal tries to contain XML chaos

When the Extensible Markup Language (XML) enabled people to create their own unique data-markup tags, many industry observers feared that chaos would ensue. Several vertical industry groups rushed to solve this problem and agreed on standardised tag sets to aid information sharing. But with the recent XML Namespaces proposal moving up to a proposed recommendation in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the chaos that could have crippled XML's usage may be resolved.

When the Extensible Markup Language (XML) enabled people to create their own unique data-markup tags, many industry observers feared that chaos would ensue.

Several vertical industry groups rushed to solve this problem and agreed on standardised tag sets to aid information sharing. But with the recent XML Namespaces proposal moving up to a proposed recommendation in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the chaos that could have crippled XML's usage may be resolved.

XML Namespaces enable developers to define a tag that uniquely identifies their data source at the top of an XML document. This feature will become especially important when third parties begin to aggregate content from other sources.

"One of the interesting things you can do with XML is get information from multiple data sources and put it in one document," said Dave Wascha, XML product manager at Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Washington. "Namespaces lets you know which information came from which site."

Microsoft provides XML Namespaces support in the beta version of Internet Explorer 5.0.

Michael Goulde, a senior consultant at the Patricia Seybold Group, in Boston, said Namespaces allows for data sharing without necessitating a standardised tag set.

However, one developer said collisions could still occur if two sites used the same Namespace.

"A lot of what goes on in the XML world is they push the problem down a level, but (it) still exists," said Dave Winer, president of Userland Software, in Palo Alto, California.

The World Wide Web Consortium, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can be reached at http://www.w3.org/.

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