Monday, December 22, 2008

Another Use of XML

XBRL is yet another use of XML, this time for financial reporting. It is supposed to be in place for large companies, and like most other requirements, it will eventually migrate down to smaller companies as more tools become available and cheaper. Putting the onus on large companies to implement new standards makes sense since they can better afford it and they often have the most complex reporting, so the standard and process truly gets tested well.

Mark Cuban had a great idea in that it should be used to track the bailout, which I tend to agree with. Make this information public, put it in a standard format like XBRL and then anyone can consume it, build reports, make it easier for the citizens of this country, who are funding this bailout, to understand what is happening.

More and more I am seeing new uses of XML, which are really just subsets of the structure that XML provides. A decade after I first saw XML being pushed at the 1998 Microsoft PDC in Denver, it truly is permeating information technology more and more. I thought it was an amazing idea, much like the ATM protocol in networking, but both of them seemed to have a lot of overhead and I wasn't sure they'd get truly widespread adoption.

I was wrong, at least for XML. ATM is used, but pretty much only by large, backbone telecoms, while XML is everywhere.

I think XML isn't suitable for all applications, but it makes great sense as an interface, especially an expandable one that exchanges data between systems or applications and needs some flexibility. It hasn't been a focus of mine over the years, but more and more I think I should dig more into XML and better understand how it works since it's likely to become integral in some part of most applications in the future.

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