XML, the eXtensible Markup Language.

A number of companies (in 2000) expect that it will be used more extensively on the web in the future. XML looks something like HTML, in that it uses tags that surround data. XML tags are intended to contain information about the data they surround, whereas HTML tags mainly indicate how to format the data so humans can read it.

Lots of companies have data they would like other people to use, however often it is hard to exchange data between different applications. XML tags should let diffrent computer systems read data and allow programs to act on that data. You might think of it as the start of a universal database. This should assist in searching for data, especially on the web, as it should be easier to exclude irrelevant data that happens to include the terms for which you are searching. It should make it easier to do "intelligent" searches.

XML is an open standard, so there is no need to use proprietary software to view it. Some XML readers will certainly be free, and we can also expect they will eventually exist for most computer systems.

XML files can be expected to be somewhat larger than proprietary database formats, however this is not a major problem. Disk drive capacity has been increasing 60% a year for the past few decades, while prices continue to drop, so raw storage costs are now under a half cent a megabyte. Automatic compression is available in recent web protocols, so there is no great need for compression of the source material before it is sent through a communication link. XML is in ASCII text, so it can be read by humans if they need to make corrections or locate problems.

More information about XML

Opera on XML
Version 4 up of the Opera browser can display XML. They explain XML here, and point to simple examples of it. http://www.opera.com/news/20000411.html
XML in 10 points
The W3C explain XML in 10 points. The W3C are the folks who set the standards for web protocols, and are the source for XML material.
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