The adoption of XML (eXtended Mark-up Language) is about to receive a boost from the creation of the XML Active Content Technologies Council, X-ACT for short. The organisation says it wants to promote the development of real-world XML solutions.
Among the organisation's 16 founding members are Informix, Andersen Consulting, Platinum Technology and Data Channel.
"There's been a lot of hype about XML," said Norbert Mikula, senior architect for XML at Data Channel and one of the driving forces behind X-ACT. "But there's also a lot of confusion."
He said the X-ACT was formed to dissolve this confusion and to spread awareness of what XML is and what it can do for businesses.
Mikula said the present confusion is due to the very diverse uses XML can be put to. XML can be used as a document format, a richer version of HTML. But it can also be used as a format for databases or for business to business transactions. That is because it allows documents to contain customised 'tags', which provide richer information than the tags in HTML.
For instance, a particular text field in an XML could be tagged as 'customer name', another as 'product name', allowing information contained in a document to be stored in the appropriate field in a database.
X-ACT claims XML will spawn a new class of computer applications that, it says, "will enable active content at all levels of networked computing (desktop, server, Internet, Intranet, Extranet, VPNs, Lans, Wans)".
X-ACT's Web site (www.x-act.org) will soon offer a directory of available XML software, as well as a collection of white papers on the technology. These will help companies decide whether XML can solve their needs, Mikula said.
He explained that the group does not want to propose its own additions to the standard, it merely wishes to promote the use of the XML specifications as proposed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The W3C approved the XML 1.0 specification on 10 February. The specification was developed by a large number of companies including Microsoft and Netscape, neither of whom have joined the X-ACT consortium.
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