XML just celebrated its 10th birthday anniversary this summer.
As Jon Bosak notes on the History of XML:
Many people know that XML grew out of the expertise of the SGML community, but few people realize even today that the whole two-year effort to develop XML was organized, led, and underwritten by Sun.
What began as a “stripped down” data-oriented SGML (driven by similar simplicity arguments that also led to HTML) has now truly become the ‘eggplant that ate Chicago.’ All of the WS* dialects, RDF, OWL, BP* (business process), etc., are now ubiquitously expressed in XML. Do you know of any serious enterprise app that today does not express its data exchange or configuration files in anything but XML?
Yet, within the last decade, there were learned fights and advocacies for such standards as ASN.1, CDF, HDF, EDI, yeech, yeech . . . . How did XML so easily win without a whimper; how did this come to pass?
That question is one of those that launched a 1000 theses.
The ubiquity of the Internet and emerging transmission speeds won earlier arguments about abstraction and date transfer effiiciency. XML looks (is!) inefficient, and adds many characters, but transmitting these longer strings is no longer a bottleneck. The simplest answer as to “why” XML won the day is that earlier limits of slow network transmission speeds, now in part being overcome through faster networks and the availablitiy of general, fast parsers, altered the winning equation. Direct, text-based expression leads to simple solutions, even though computer scientists who focused for years on optimal network transmissivity cringe. Yeoh!
In other words, initially data transfer protocols of the past couple of decades erred on the side of elegance and parsimony. Too bad that interconnection speeds (importantly translated through the sieve of what is immediately of actual interest) have bludgeoned prior sensitivities toward elegance. If it parses, do it! Happy brithday!