XML in the browser at Balisage

[6 June 2009]

It’s been some time since XML was first specified, with the hope that once browsers supported XML, it would become easy to deliver content on the Web in XML.

A lot of people spent a lot of time, in those early years, warning that you couldn’t really deliver XML on the Web in practice, because too many people were still using non-XML-capable (or non-XSLT-enabled) browsers. (At least, it seemed that way to me.) I got used to the idea that you couldn’t really do it. So it was a bit of a surprise to me, a few years ago, to discover that I could, after all. There are some dark corners in some browsers’ implementations of XSLT (no information about unparsed entities in Opera, no namespace nodes in Firefox — though that last one is being fixed even as I write, which is good news) but there are workarounds; the situation is probably at least as good with respect to XSLT as it is with respect to Javascript and CSS. I have not had to draft an important paper in HTML, or worry about translating it into HTML in order to deliver it on the Web, in years.

Why is this fact not more widely known and exploited by users of XML?

It will surprise no one, after what I just said, that one of the papers I’m looking forward to hearing at Balisage 2009 (coming up very soon — the deadline for late-breaking news submissions is 19 June, and the conference itself is the week of 10 August) is a talk by Alex Milowski under the title “XML in the browser: the next decade”. Alex Milowski is one of the smartest and most thoughtful technologists I know, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

He’ll talk (as I know from having read the paper proposal) about what some people hoped for, from XML in the browser, ten years ago, and about what has happened instead. He’ll talk about what can be done with XML in the browser today, and what most needs fixing in the current situation. There will probably be demos. And, most interesting, I expect he will provide some thoughts on the long-term direction we should be trying to take, in order to make the Web and XML get along better together.

If you think XML can help make the Web and the world a better place, you might want to come to Montréal this August to hang around with Alex, and with me, and with others of your kind. It’s always a rewarding experience.