Taking the Pulse of the XML Community

December 7, 1999

Edd Dumbill

In addition the official sessions at the XML'99 conference there are so-called "birds of a feather" (BOF) meetings. At these, delegates of like mind can get together and talk about a common interest.

The BOF sessions are a great way of taking the pulse of the XML community -- what are people really doing with XML, what do they want to find out about? We took the attendances for the various groups and ranked topics, with interesting results.

Although these results are by no means authoritative, they provide an excellent straw poll of the conference delegates:

BOF Session Topic Attendance (out of 10)
XML Schemas 10
Legacy data into XML 9
XML Querying Languages 8
Newcomers to XML 6
XML and Insurance 6
Document Management 5

Other topics, with two or three attendees, included "Authoring DTDs", "Enterprise Information Integration" and "RDF".

The top three topics -- schemas, converting legacy data, query languages -- present an encouraging picture of developers integrating XML into their systems. On adopting XML, developers need to do the very things they have done before with their data -- constraining and validation, and querying. Although XML Schemas are nearing completion by the W3C, we may have to wait a while longer for a W3C-sanctioned XML query language.

Representatives from vertical industries have been a strong contingent at the conference. Healthcare and insurance have been particularly well-represented amongst delegates. Vertical industry applications of XML, and associated standards, are becoming increasingly important as they build upon the platform created by the W3C. Organizations such as the GCA are looking to help such industries, of which there are some who may not have had a mature standard of data interchange before the advent of XML, develop their own standards.

There can be no doubt that XML has made a large impact on the software world over the last year. Attendance at XML'99 is some 2,200 people -- with pre-registrations up by over 65% on last year's event. The majority of this influx comes from those interested in XML for data management, rather than publishing. This is reflected too in the focus of industry groups such as OASIS, now concentrating on frameworks for e-business as opposed to publishing technologies.