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As always, you can download this excerpt as a PDF if you prefer. Whenever I talk about XML with developers, designers, technical writers, or other Web professionals, the most common question I’m asked is, “What’s the big deal?
” In this book, I’ll explain exactly what the big deal is – how XML can be used to make your Web applications smarter, more versatile, and more powerful.
XML is a meta-language: a language that allows us to create or define other languages. We need it because HTML is specifically designed to describe documents for display in a Web browser, and not much else.
For example, with XML we can create other languages, such as RSS, Math ML (a mathematical markup language), and even tools like XSLT. It becomes cumbersome if you want to display documents in a mobile device or do anything that’s even slightly complicated, such as translating the content from German to English.
For example, a human can probably deduce that the Okay, we’ve spent some time talking about XML and its potential, and examining some of the neater aspects of it.
Now, it’s time to do what I like best, and get our hands dirty as we actually work on some documents.
Then, we’ll spend some time starting the project we’ll develop through the course of this book: building an XML-powered content management system.
As a result, I’ve learned to keep my explanation brief.
For example, if you were to go to any ecommerce Website and download a product listing, you’d probably get something like this: Product One is an exciting new widget that will simplify your life. Cost: .95 This is such a terrific widget that you will most certainly want to buy one for your home and another one for your office! Take a good look at this – admittedly simple – code sample from a computer’s perspective.
A human can certainly read this document and make the necessary semantic leaps to understand it, but a computer couldn’t. Humans are much better at semantics than computers, because humans are really good at deriving meaning.
I’ll try to stay away from the grandstanding hoopla that has characterized much of the discussion of XML; instead, I’ll give you the background and know-how you’ll need to make XML a part of your professional skillset. Whenever a group of people asks this question, I always look at the individuals’ body language.
A significant portion of the group leans forward eagerly, wanting to learn more.
The most recognizable feature of XML is its tags, or elements (to be more accurate).