The World Wide Consortium (W3C) standards body has asked the developer community to test drive a specification for adding links to XML documents.
XML is a text format for defining specialised markup languages that transmit formatted data across the web. The specification, called the XML Linking Language (XLink), enables XML to connect one page to another and still keep its multi-layered structure.
The would-be standard uses XML syntax to create structures that can describe links similar to HTML hyperlink. The difference is that XLink allows developers to enforce the navigation order through a series of linked documents.
Currently HTML hyperlinks are used to link XML pages, but XLink will provide a more sophisticated method that maintains the multi-layered structure of XML documents, according to the W3C.
XLink gives developers a standard method for specifying navigational links between documents. However, it can only represent links, and developers would still need to create ways of retrieving and presenting linked documents.
"It's a bit more complicated than a traditional HTML linking mechanism," said a W3C spokeswoman. "XML documents are like a bunch of Lego blocks, so you want to be able to refer to work in each of their sections in a clean way."
The specification is expected to be tested for three months. Developer comments will be incorporated into a subsequent proposed recommendation stage which goes on for another six weeks.
Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Brown University, Fujitsu Laboratories and business-to-business software developer Commerce One are all members of the W3C's XLink working group.
XLink joins another specification currently being tested called XML Pointer, which is used to identify parts of an XML document.
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