A Brief History of XML in Font

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A Brief History of XML
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XML came into being in 1998 and is based on Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). SGML is an international standard that you can think of as a language for defining other languages that mark up documents. HTML was based on SGML. One of the key points about SGML is that it s difficult to use. XML aims to be much easier. XML also owes much of its existence to HTML. HTML focused on the display of content; you couldn t use it for more advanced features such as sorting and filtering. HTML wasn t a very precise language, and it wasn t case-sensitive. It was possible to write incorrect HTML content but for a browser to display the page correctly. XML addresses many of the shortcomings found in HTML. In 1999, HTML was rewritten using the XML language construction rules as XHTML. The rules for construction of an XHTML document are more precise than those for HTML. The strictness with which these rules are enforced depends on which Document Type Declaration (DOCTYPE) you assign to the XHTML page. I ll explain more about DOCTYPEs in 3. Since 1998, it s been clear that XML is a very powerful approach to managing information. XML documents allow for the sharing of data. A range of related W3C recommendations address the transformation, display, and navigation within XML documents. You ll find out more about these recommendations in 2.
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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO XML
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Let s summarize the key points: XML isn t a language; its rules are used to construct other languages. XML creates tag-based languages that mark up content. XHTML is one of the languages created by XML as a reformulation of HTML. XML is based on SGML.
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The Goals of XML
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After the complexity of SGML, the W3C was very clear about its goals for XML. You can view these goals at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml/#sec-origin-goals: 1. XML shall be straightforwardly usable over the Internet. 2. XML shall support a wide variety of applications. 3. XML shall be compatible with SGML. 4. It shall be easy to write programs which process XML documents. 5. The number of optional features in XML is to be kept to the absolute minimum, ideally zero. 6. XML documents should be human-legible and reasonably clear. 7. The XML design should be prepared quickly. 8. The design of XML shall be formal and concise. 9. XML documents shall be easy to create. 10. Terseness in XML markup is of minimal importance. A few things about these goals are worth noting. First, the W3C wants XML to be straightforward; in fact, several of the goals include the terms easy and clear. Second, the W3C has given XML two targets: humans and XML processors. An XML processor or parser is a software package that processes an XML document. Processors can identify the contents of an XML document; read, write, and change an existing document; or create a new one from scratch. The aim is to open up the market for XML processors by keeping them simple to develop. Stricter construction rules mean that less processing is required. This in turn means that the targets for XML documents can be portable devices, such as mobile phones and PDAs. By keeping documents human-readable, you can access data more readily, and you can build and debug applications more easily. The use of Unicode allows developers to create XML documents in a variety of languages. Unfortunately, a necessary side effect is that XML documents can be verbose, and describing data using XML can be a longer process than using other methods.
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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO XML
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UNICODE
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XML supports the Unicode character set to enable multilanguage support. Unicode provides support for 231 characters. It includes every character you re likely to need, as well as many that you ll never see. You can use 8-bit Unicode Transformation Format (UTF-8) to encode Unicode characters so that the characters use the same codes as they do in ASCII. Obviously, this provides good compatibility with older systems. Languages such as Japanese and Chinese need UTF-16 encoding. You can find out more about Unicode at http://www.unicode.org.
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Third, note the term XML document. This term is broader than the traditional view of a physical document. Some XML documents exist in physical form, but others are created as a stream of information following XML construction rules. Examples include web services and calls to databases where the content is returned in XML format. Now that you understand what XML is, let s delve into the rules for constructing XML languages.
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