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Originating publication

January 26, 1998, Issue: 666
Section: Intranets/Internet

XML On The Rise -- Language expected to aid E-commerce, help Web searches

Gregory Dalton

Industry support is growing for extensible markup language (XML), an emerging standard that's expected to facilitate electronic commerce and make Web searches more effective by improving how data is organized. The World Wide Web Consortium accepted XML as a proposed standard in December. Several vendors announced this month that they will use it for various products and a new E-commerce initiative.

XML is a meta language, which means it describes information about information. It allows more programming tags than HTML and can be used to describe information more precisely. "XML is positioned to deliver stronger structure to the Web," says Ron Rappaport, an analyst at Zona Research. "It acts as a balm to user frustrations" by allowing information to be assembled in a way that enables more accurate searches.

Open Market Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., has expanded its XML support with plans to include the language in its Folio line of publishing products during the first half of this year. Also, Ericsson Inc., a division of the Swedish telecom equipment maker, has licensed the XML-ready Web Automation Toolkit 2.1 from startup webMethods Inc. Ericsson hopes XML will facilitate Web searches made using its wireless telephones.

XML is already a basis of the Open Financial Exchange format for consumer financial transactions proposed by Microsoft and other companies. Another consortium aimed at the retail trade, the Open Trading Protocol, this month posted its proposed XML-based specification. That initiative is led by MasterCard International and backed by companies including AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Wells Fargo. The group chose XML because there is nothing like it for structuring data and because it has broad industry support, says David Burdett, development director at MasterCard's Mondex International unit.

Drew Lapsley, manager of E-commerce technology at AIM Management Group, says the Houston fund-management company is experimenting with XML to see if it can control information that comes up on Web pages better than HTML does. Netscape and Microsoft both have endorsed XML, but Lapsley wants to know whether they will add proprietary tags to XML as they've done with HTML-resulting in sites with certain functions that can be accessed using only one company's browser. He adds, "I take everything a browser manufacturer says with a grain of salt in terms of what they support."

Copyright (c) 1998 CMP Media Inc.


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