The social life of XML

I recently found a picture of the panelists at the XML DevCon 2001 session entitled "The Importance of XML." My body language told the story: I wasn't a happy camper. Of course I agreed with all the reasons the panel thought XML was important: for web services, for interprocess communication, and for business process automation. But I also thought XML was important for a whole different set of reasons that weren't on the conference's agenda. I thought XML was important for end-user applications, for human communication, and for personal productivity. I believed then, and I believe more strongly today, that it's a bad idea to separate those two ways of using XML. []
This is an edited-down version of the talk I gave at XML 2003. It omits the XPath-search-in-the-browser demonstrations, which readers of my O'Reilly Network column have already seen.

The other day, Don Box wondered -- in reference to last week's InfoWorld column -- about the notion "that there are somehow two classes of XML - documents and something else". As should be clear from the text of my keynote talk, it's hard for me, personally, to make a distinction between documents and databases. But the river of XML is fed by two tributaries -- people who came from publishing, and people who came from IT-driven data management -- and that's the duality Don may be picking up on.

In fact, there's another kind of duality on my radar screen at the moment. Dare Obasanjo reported that in our conversation at XML 2003 I said I had expected WinFS would turn out to be an XML store, not a CLR store. That's absolutely true, and I continue to believe it would be the right way to ensure that information created by users of future Windows systems will have the right kinds of social opportunities.

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