1.2 What XML Is Not


XML is a markup language, and it is only a markup language. It's important to remember that. The XML hype has gotten so extreme that some people expect XML to do everything up to and including washing the family dog.

First of all, XML is not a programming language . There's no such thing as an XML compiler that reads XML files and produces executable code. You might perhaps define a scripting language that used a native XML format and was interpreted by a binary program, but even this application would be unusual. XML can be used as a format for instructions to programs that do make things happen, just like a traditional program may read a text config file and take different actions depending on what it sees there. Indeed, there's no reason a config file can't be XML instead of unstructured text. Some more recent programs use XML config files; but in all cases, it's the program taking action, not the XML document itself. An XML document by itself simply is . It does not do anything.

At least one XML application, XSL Transformations (XSLT), has been proven to be Turing complete by construction. See http://www.unidex.com/turing/utm.htm for one universal Turing machine written in XSLT.

Second, XML is not a network transport protocol . XML won't send data across the network, any more than HTML will. Data sent across the network using HTTP, FTP, NFS, or some other protocol might be encoded in XML; but again there has to be some software outside the XML document that actually sends the document.

Finally, to mention the example where the hype most often obscures the reality, XML is not a database . You're not going to replace an Oracle or MySQL server with XML. A database can contain XML data, either as a VARCHAR or a BLOB or as some custom XML data type, but the database itself is not an XML document. You can store XML data in a database on a server or retrieve data from a database in an XML format, but to do this, you need to be running software written in a real programming language such as C or Java. To store XML in a database, software on the client side will send the XML data to the server using an established network protocol such as TCP/IP. Software on the server side will receive the XML data, parse it, and store it in the database. To retrieve an XML document from a database, you'll generally pass through some middleware product like Enhydra that makes SQL queries against the database and formats the result set as XML before returning it to the client. Indeed, some databases may integrate this software code into their core server or provide plug-ins to do it, such as the Oracle XSQL servlet. XML serves very well as a ubiquitous, platform-independent transport format in these scenarios. However, it is not the database, and it shouldn't be used as one.

XML in a Nutshell
XML in a Nutshell, Third Edition
ISBN: 0596007647
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 232

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