The Net’s top standards body is getting closer to speeding up XML-based software, a move that could benefit everyone from cell phone carriers to television broadcasters to the military.
But critics say the group’s favored approach could cause major compatibility problems, among other things.
XML is fast becoming a widely used way of formatting and saving business documents such as purchase orders. But for certain applications–sending data to set-top boxes, for instance, and offering interactive programs on cell phones–representing data using XML is simply too bulky, say proponents for more efficient XML.
“XML has been a victim of its success,” said Robin Berjon, of standards group the World Wide Web Consortium, “We’ve started using it in all kinds of situations that it wasn’t designed for.”
If XML were zippier, say some, cell phone companies, for example, could meet consumer demand for more complex programs. The Air Force, too, has expressed interest in using speedier XML formats for embedded computing applications, such as those found in fighter jets.
A W3C committee recently recommended that the group address the problem by moving away from the traditional way of saving XML data–in text format–and instead create a standard for a binary format. W3C working group recommendations are generally taken up as formal standards efforts, which means the group is one step closer to a major change in the XML standard.
The recommendation still has to be approved by the W3C’s Advisory Committee and the W3C’s director. But a vote to move forward with a binary XML standard could happen late this summer, said Liam Quin, the XML activity lead at the W3C.