The Unfulfilled Promise of XML

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When the XML file format initially came out, it was hailed as a way to finally overcome our interoperability issues. After all, it was a self-describing, data-neutral file format that would make it a lot easier for applications to share data.

Since then, we've seen mainstream adoption of XML, but the vision of what XML as a lingua franca or bridge language for interoperability has fallen short. What basically happened is that with so many different industry organizations going off to implement XML, we wound up with a lot of different XML schemas that still needed to be integrated. Granted, it's is a vast improvement over what we use to have to deal with, but a lot of hand coding and massaging of XML continues to be required to interoperate two applications.

But hope springs eternal. The HR-XML consortium recently announced that it would finally comply with the XML guidelines defined by the Open Applications Group and the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) in version 3.0 of a specification that is widely used in human resources applications. This development should make it easier to integrate HR applications with the rest of the enterprise applications that support XML.

Alas, we still have an array of XML schemas describing any number of processes and documents. Within each vertical industry, we're getting better at defining XML schema standards, but the standards for integrating specific business processes still need a lot of work. And even if they get defined better, it's not at all clear that this would enable any advances in terms of automating XML schema integration.

So the question is, have we gone as far as we can go in terms of advancing the state of the XML art? Or is this just moment of time when it only seems like the promise of XML may be unfilled, but something profound is right around the corner?