Fascinating. Amusing, even.
I haven't blogged a technical entry in quite awhile, mostly because I've just been too busy with things like getting married last year. But I got back from my New Year's holiday and found myself in a fun IM conversation with an old co-worker about something new called E4X. My reaction was: "That's daft. Why are you parsing XML in the browser?"
As I was catching up on Ajaxian, I discovered that this debate heated up over the holidays. Apparently Dave Winer, a respected name in the XML community, recently discovered JSON, and was shocked. He went on a rant about reinventing the wheel, the importance of interoperability, and made a casual poke or two at the Silicon Valley engineering culture. He even threatened to string up our friend Doug Crockford.
I spent several years at two different Silicon Valley companies building XML architectures and XSL presentation tiers. I spent most of that time in a standing debate with one anti-Silicon-Valley academic-type friend, whose argument was: "I would forgive XML all its sins if it was either (a) easy to read, or (b) easy to parse. It's the worst of *all* worlds." He often made casual pokes about the Silicon Valley engineering culture. He even threatened to shoot all the XML guys.
Fortunately, the Ajaxian folks have a good handle on this. But it is fun to see these two communities suddenly clashing. They're both very much a part of the Silicon Valley culture.
XML solves a particular business problem better than anything before. Companies that were aggregating incompatible IT systems in the 80's and 90's were screaming for some WD-40 to lube the joints, especially during Web 1.x. After a decade of bickering over IDL, CORBA, OLE, and Microsoft pulling out of the OMG, the enterprise finally agreed to use a common syntax to build their proprietary data formats on top of. Progress was made. I sound sarcastic, but I'm being serious: Business software over the last 30 years is such an exercise in how *not* to engineer software that it actually took something as bloated as XML, with all its CDATA and character-entity weirdnesses, to patch a pretty bad thing. XML was a huge leap forward.
So Dave Winer is correct to be concerned about interoperability, but he missed the Web 2.0 memo.
We're not using our *browsers* as a service aggregators (much, yet) because XmlHttpRequest doesn't let us hit 3rd-party services, and XML is today's primary data format for 3rd-party web services. We might use JSON more over time, since there is a hack to get at 3rd-party services that return JSON, but SOAP and RSS are here for the long-term, so we all have our nifty XML parsers running on our servers anyway. Never mind the fact that web pages that have to hit servers we don't own are a lot less reliable. Anyone who has integrated with 3rd-party ad servers or metric trackers has their own nightmare stories.
And there ya have it.
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