17 January, 2005

Putting XML in the fast lane -ZdNet
Performance problems result from XML's tendency to create very large files. That's in part because XML formatting calls for each element within a document to be tagged with labels written out as text. What's more, XML-based protocols, called Web services, also generate a great deal of XML traffic. Not only is XML verbose, but it's extremely wasteful in how much space it needs to use for the amount of true data that it is sending.

The leading candidate to help alleviate XML's performance woes is a technology called binary XML, which calls for a new format that compresses XML transmissions. In initial tests, they found that applications perform two or three times faster when using the software.

The primary concern is interoperability. Potentially, several different binary formats for specific purposes could emerge, which are not universally understood. For example, there may be a method for encoding images sent to consumer electronics, which may differ substantially from others.

Bray is skeptical of the entire notion of converting XML to any format other than text. "The fact that XML is ordinary plain text that you can pull into Notepad...has turned out to be a boon, in practice," he said. "Any time you depart from that straight-and-narrow path, you risk loss of interoperability. Experience with interoperability via XML as it is, has been excellent. Why take chances?"

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