Why XML?

XML (eXtensible Markup Language), recently confirmed as a 'Recommendation' by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a successor to HTML which allows for the development of new markup schemes for particular purposes. Several of the design goals of XML are relevant here (using the original numbering from the Recommendation, which can be found at

1. XML shall be straightforwardly usable over the Internet.
4. It shall be easy to write programs which process XML documents.
6. XML documents should be human-legible and reasonably clear.
9. XML documents shall be easy to create.
10. Terseness in XML markup is of minimal importance.

The first four listed here are important for the widespread adoption of XML for data interchange. We believe that it is important to adopt an open standard which does not lock people into a particular software package. XML is capable of being readily created without special software.

The final point, relating to terseness, is interesting. XML as a format for transporting large datasets will obviously add a significant overhead (though this may be acceptable because of the benefits obtained). In the application we propose, however, the amount of data in the site description is comparatively small compared to a full report, and thus the size of an online report is unlikely to be significantly enlarged by the XML markup of the site description. In order to give a flavour for XML, we have produced some sample data relating to a fictional site. The markup used is broadly indicative of what we are proposing, though further development is still required.

(Some useful sources of information on XML can be found at:


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Last updated: Mon Sept 6 1999