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[web] Is XML any good?

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Hello! I plan on majoring in something related to Computer Science this Fall, and I would like to know if XML is a major part of web-site development/programming. A friend of mine told me it wasn't that popular, but I would like your opinions. If XML isn't the way to go, what is? HTML is easy as pie, but I suspect there is more to learn. Thanks! =)

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It really depends on what you need to do. XML can be a good way of separating the presentation and logic layer of a website but it isn't essential by any means. You shouldn't use it just to say you're using it unless it's strictly a learning exercise.

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XML is as good (or bad) as you make it. It is merely a ruleset/standard about how to format data for saving to a textfile. XML & HTML are loosely connected; both are markup languages based on SGML, although HTML is less strict about invalid formatting and is more of a 'display language'. XHTML brings XML and HTML together, it's HTML which adheres to the rules of XML.

XML is becoming more & more important in (web)development when there's a need to share data with other parties. For example, RSS feeds are XML and the Open Document Format used by Office 12 and OpenOffice is also XML.

You can find a good tutorial on XML here. You can also check the Wikipedia entry on XML.

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Some general pros and cons I've discovered:

Pros:
1. Documents can be edited and viewed with standard text editor. In other words, you don't need to buy or develop a custom tool just to use XML. This is a big advantage compared to binary DOC or PPT formats for documents.
2. Standardised format for serialising tree-structured data.
3. Standardised interchange format between programs.
4. Standardised API in different programming environments allows you to leverage your knowledge in one implementation (say Python) when you use another implementation (say javascript or C#).

Cons:
1. Data files can be VERY verbose if you're not careful when specifying the structure.
2. W3C standard documents are hard to read.
3. May need to know several related and derived standards just to do one task well.

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