Q3 - Why XML?

Q3: Why did you choose to use XML rather than another technology (such as a relational database?)

JMM: First - XML is uniquely low-cost. The concept can be explained in minutes, and you can immediately begin to build documents with an ordinary word processor. Second - Tools exist in Java, in PHP, and indeed in most major programming environments that make it easy to transform XML into data structures that are used within the telecommunication and graphical display elements of our programs.

MG: We also use relational databases for other kinds of information, especially where we need to execute sophisticated relational queries on the data. XML works well when we need some text format which describes some asset, usually in some static way. We like XML because parsers for it are readily available; the format is familiar to most programmers and some non-technical people so humans can modify the file format in the absence of a specialized authoring tool.

TG: XML tends to be more of a “standard” format, in that an XML has a definitive structure, and a definitive set of data, no matter what is accessing the XML file (whether it be a website, flash animation, software, notepad, etc.) Using the aforementioned E4X function library can also bring many of the benefits of a relational database to XML (specifically, search queries and linking multiple entries to each other). While XML will not replace relational databases, it can emulate their function, so in most cases, I choose to go with XML, unless there are performance issues.

BA: For two reasons. First, the industry is moving toward more machine-independent and platform-independent, semantically meaningful way of tagging content. Second, the tools we are using, that are generally used by our industry, are using XML and HTML. For instance, we use FrameMaker because it's an industry-accepted authoring tool for large amounts of content. And we spit out XML from there because we can easily transform it into HTML without the need for third party tools. You used to have to buy Quadralay WebWorks or other tools (and some people still do) but we found we can get around that by transforming (using XSLTs) the raw XML ourselves and making HTML. Another example, is that Microsoft Visual Studio (the development environment used by software developers) uses XML in the source code for putting in comments, so tools such as Innovasys Document! X that generates documentation automatically, grabs the XML and generates HTML. So it's natural for us to work with XML since it's part of how software developers do their code comments.

SS: Our choice is based on customer requirements and standards.

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