James Clark Adds His ‘Meh’ to the XML/JSON Debate

Jessica Thornsby

Twitter and Foursquare may be deprecating XML, but the XML community isn’t worried.

Last week, Norman Walsh reacted with a resounding “meh” to the news that high-profile services Twitter and Foursquare will be removing XML support from their web APIs. He took the level-headed stance that XML has the edge over JSON in some areas, and JSON has the edge over XML in others, and users should opt for the tool that’s best suited to their project. Now, James Clark has backed him up with the argument that if XML is what you’re experienced in and good at, then the news that Twitter and Foursquare have jumped off the XML wagon, won’t have you dropping XML anytime soon. Likewise, if most of your work involves mixed content, then XML is still going to be the tool for you.

For Clark, XML wins in the areas of non-binary data formats, open standard data formats, data longevity and reuse, and seperating presentation from content. He believes JSON is better than XML when it comes to providing a programming language-independent representation of typical programming language data structures. If a a tool surpasses XML, he will be “happy rather than worried,” but he doesn’t think that day has come yet.

Clark picks fault with Walsh’s theory that XML’s main purpose is to solve the problem of unstructured data, pointing out that the average web developer’s immediate response to mixed content, is HTML. Therefore, he says that “appealing to mixed content is not going to convince the average Web developer of the value of XML.”

So, what does he see XML’s role in the future of web development? He wants to see HMTL5’s compatibility with XML being developed, by building the XML stack to create technologies that can work natively with HTML, JSON and JavaScript, and “bring to the broader Web developer community some of the good aspects of the modern XML development experience.” The current trend may be veering towards HTML5, JavaScript and JSON, but that doesn’t mean XML is licked just yet.

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