Q8: In your mind, what are the primary strengths and weaknesses of XML as a communications technology?

JMM: Strengths: broad acceptance, simplicity. Weaknesses: no systematic way to find relevant namespaces. It sometimes seems like luck and accident when one finds good ontologies.

MG: Primary strength is that customizing a parser for XML is extremely easy especially when using a SAX-based parser which mostly entails writing callbacks and a simple push-down automata. Usually we can get away with finite-state automata and occasionally employ a stack to handle recursive elements, which are rare. Primary weakness is that it is verbose so although editing by hand is straightforward, it takes a much larger number of keystrokes. Also, reading XML is slightly harder than reading other declarative languages. Writing procedural phrases in XML is especially cumbersome.

TG: The strengths of XML would be its open text format, ability to be edited using standard text editors, and the ease of reading / editing the information. The weaknesses are directly related to its strengths: being a physical file format, it can create issues with performance, especially if many different applications are trying to read from the same file at once. This is where a standard database would be ideal.

BA: XML, as we use it, is great for human use -- it's a tagging language that makes sense. And it is scalable. We only need a few elements, so we can use a small DTD that we wrote in-house. We don't need a behemoth like DocBook. XML is flexible and easy to work with. We wrote our own XSLTs and avoided using third-party software that would have cost the company lots of money. XML is about putting content in containers with meaningful names. A topic contains a subtopic that contains a paragraph. Simple stuff.

SS: The strengths are flexibility, portability, and the ability to use it without buying expensive tools.

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