XML - Learning by Example

Dr. Robert B. Mellor    See also .... DHTML XML ASP

Congratulations on finishing the course "XML learning by example". You may well be proud of yourself and asking, "where do I go from here". So here are a few pointers.

The first tip is that if you think you have really understood the book, then you can get a certificate from an approved college

I think it is important to understand where XML is going and how it fits into the "scene".

Classical web sites are on a UNIX platform with interactivity provided by CGI programs written largely in PERL. These are expensive in manpower, so database-driven web-sites started to get an edge. The best known system is ASP. Active Server Pages are often written in VBScript, from Microsoft, so it works well on NT4 and Win2000 servers. Furthermore the powerful concept of "middleware", a "business layer", became prevalent, and that was often written in Visual Basic - cementing the Microsoft connection.

However as soon as the principle was proven, lots of other people started to get in on this and make ther own "home-made" systems. These can often be 4 guys in a cellar wirh any kind of server, where the ASP (or PHP, or CFM or whatever) layer was on a middleware of their own making - often C# (pronounced "See Sharp"). Consequently the price of ASPs (and now I don't mean Active Server Pages, I rather mean Applications Service Providers) fell dramatically. That market is going to fall even more.

The reason why it is going to fall more is due to Microsofts marketing strategy and due to Microsofts technical strategy:

1. MS = Marketing Strategy ?

Microsoft started by making workstation platforms. Win3 was revolutionary and Win95 even better. They succeeded. Then they moved over to Office systems and pushed the MS Office packet. They won, despite that Corels Word Perfect etc was (and still is) undoubtably better. Then NT4 started to challenge UNIX in the server market. UNIX flavors like Apache are undoubtedly technically better servers, but NT4 with a "fool-proof" interface won through. Then came the "Browser Wars" where Netscape 3 (without doubt a better browser than MSIE3) fell in version 4 from 80% of the market to under 8%. Why am I mentioning "old history"? - because Microsoft is now launching Content Management Server (written in MS's language COM+). Looking at Microsofts previous history then one can say that whichever market segment they wish to inhabit will shorthly afterward become dominated by them. This will pressurize the Application Service Provider market to the extent that completely new methods will have to found if the present players should avoid bankrupcy.

XML-based added-value methods will become live-savers for existing players!

2. .NET

Microsoft are now revising their opinion of classical Visual Basic as middleware (where it is admittedly excellent) in favour of a mix of processes sharing many common features, called .NET (dot-net). At the moment it is too early to see where .NET will end up, apart from to say that XML is in it, and BIG TIME !

What else ?

What would be rational would be a slightly different vision. How about replacing the ASP (now I'm back to Active Server Pages again) top layer with XML? A Java environment would then be an excellent business layer instead of Visual Basic or .NET middleware. The payoff would be that the web-site would deliver the ML required (HTML, XHTML, WML, whatever) whilest being totally platform independent - UNIX, Linux, Jigsaw, O'Reilley WebPro, Win2000, NT4 or Cold Fusion or whatever else you may want. This would give a better integration with existing EDIs too (many of which are still DOS).

However, one way or the other (or even 50:50), XML is good. If you think the Internet is good now, then hold on to your socks - with XML the Internet will really start !

Good luck.

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