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Los Angeles Times
Inman News Features
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Thursday, April 30, 1998

Data proposal
Test XML form offered for review

While hype continues to build over Extensible Markup Language, real progress is being made in online industries -- including real estate.
     Last month, OpenMLS, a software product based on the XML standard, debuted at the Real Estate Connect 98 conference in San Francisco. Now comes a proposed standard for MLS forms using XML, which defines data content on the Web.
     The proposal, published by 4thWORLD Telecom, includes an overview and actual design of the DTD, or document type definition, through which real estate agents can input listing data. Separate DTDs can be developed for the commercial, vacant-land and working-land property categories.
     "It's a first step in the evolution of the species," says 4thWORLD Director John Petit, who readily admits much work needs to be done but that he "wanted to start the process and experimentation."
     Petit said the design was developed from a host of different MLS forms (there is no standard) and invites anyone to examine the DTD proposal and provide feedback. 4thWORLD has also published an article about XML and real estate.
     In the way that Hypertext Markup Language defines the presentation of Web pages, XML defines the data content of documents through standardized "tags" of data fields. With the development of proper search engines, the XML format will allow end-users to mow through the Web clutter and find exactly what they're looking for.
     One of the possible benefits of XML when applied to MLS data is that the same document can be indexed and accessed by both Realtors and the public, but "SECURITY" attributes in the DTD code could keep some information restricted to Realtors only and thus eliminate the need for dual databases.
     Before XML takes off in general, Petit said, both standard browsers must be XML friendly and XML search tools must be developed. He predicts this could start to happen by summer and that increasingly Web-savvy home buyers could help drive the process.
     "I donít know exactly when things are going to start to move in the real estate industry with XML, but we should get the tool out there," Petit said.


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