Celebrating XML Independence

Today, I’d like to highlight a (4th of July holiday) post on Matt Turner’s Discovering XQuery blog. Matt’s post refers to this article, entitled XQuery: The Server Language, on XML.com, written by Kurt Cagle.

I’d read Kurt’s article when it was posted on June 6 and had meant to blog on it, but didn’t get around to it (or frankly, much blogging at all) during the busy month of June. Nevertheless, here are few chunky morsels from Kurt’s article:

As an XML developer, one of the problems that I come across almost invariably within these [server-side scripting] languages is the fact that they are shaped by people who view XML as something of an afterthought, a small subset of the overall language that’s intended to satisfy those strange people who think in angle brackets.

He then shows an example (that warmed Matt Turner’s heart) of how often people have to create HMTL by composing strings in-line. More morsels:

The original intent of the developers of XQuery was to use it, not surprisingly, as an XML-oriented query language. XQuery is not itself XML based (nor for that matter is XPath), but all of its operations are designed to work with XML documents or XML databases to provide a way of filtering or manipulating that XML to produce some form of output, most typically as XML or HTML.

Intriguingly, as a filter on XML, XQuery has seen only limited success. Part of this has to do with the fact that a significant number of the databases currently in use are SQL based, not XML based, so the benefits to gained by using an XML query filter are offset by the need to convert relational data into XML in the first place.

While I’d agree with Kurt thus far on the market adoption of XQuery and the hassle introduced by having to map XML to an RDBMS (see this post on Top-to-Bottom XML Apps), we at Mark Logic like to think of ourselves as the exception to the slow XQuery adoption rule. While XQuery is not a huge wind at our back, we have been able to grow the company eight-fold since I joined in 3Q04 and that growth is most definitely helped by the de-risking that comes with XQuery by virtue of it being both an industry standard and an eventual, inexorable replacement for SQL.

(If green is the new black, then XQuery is the new SQL, and SQL the new COBOL.)

Kurt concludes his article with:

This article serves as a very basic introduction to XQuery as a server language. I will be addressing this topic in more detail in subsequent articles in this series, examining some of the more sophisticated capabilities and the gotchas inherent in working with XQuery and eXist, and showing what explosive power you can release when you combine eXist or other rest based XQuery engines with XForms and Ajax.

My prediction is that REST based XML databases like eXist will seriously challenge the existing raft of server languages, from ASP to Ruby, within the next couple of years. Right now, it’s something of a closed secret among a few developers, but the power, sophistication and ease of use inherent in working with the XML as if it were a natural part of the server landscape can only be understood by trying it.

I couldn’t agree more with the bolded statement and we all look forward to seeing the subsequent articles in the series.

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