XML as an Acronym Factory

September 20, 1997

Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol 2, No 1

XML as an Acronym Factory

XML isn’t really a language; it’s a system that makes it possible to invent new languages. Lots of people are obliging.

This handy glossary of acronyms and marketing buzzwords is designed to help navigate through the blizzard of press releases. Your correspondent has reason to believe that by the time you read this, there will be one or two more acronyms to add to the soup.

CDF: The first-ever commercial XML language was Microsoft’s Channel Definition Format. CDF has all sorts of partners now, but not that many implementations on the ground.

The first-ever XML language of any kind was Chemical Markup Language, invented by an eager Englishman, Peter Murray-Rust. At the moment, it serves largely as a vehicle for Murray-Rust’s innovative browsing software.

MCF: Meta Content Format was originally proposed by Apple as a general-purpose metadata vehicle; its early applications were highly visual, which caused it to be confused with a virtual reality facility. Netscape scooped up its inventor (R.V. Guha) and the technology from Apple, and has reissued it as Meta Content Framework, with an XML syntax. This submission is now part of the RDF process.

Mathematical Markup Language exists to address the Web’s current inability to format mathematics. This may not be causing you lost sleep, but if you’re a textbook publisher, or anyone playing in the academic market, it’s a serious problem. This is a proposal from a World Wide Web consortium working group.

OSD: Open Software Distribution was coannounced recently by Marimba and Microsoft, as a facility to support Marimba-style automated software download facilities. Microsoft says that OSD implies support for CDF. Marimba doesn’t.

OFX: Open Financial Exchange is the format used behind the scenes by Intuit Quicken, Microsoft Money and CheckFree in talking to financial institutions. This is not widely publicized, and, the last time we saw it, was an SGML rather than an XML application. But they say XML is in the future.

OpenTag: An initiative proposed by International Language Engineering Corporation (ILE), described as "standard Extraction/Abstraction Text Format for Translation and NLP Tools."

OXF: Open Exchange Format is a relatively unannounced and certainly unmarketed format cooked up by some folks at Asymetrix (Paul Allen’s CBT company) for the exchange of multimedia. The initial application is an alternative and more open format for AutoCad’s DXF files.

RDF: Resource Description Framework is the World Wide Web Consortium’s answer to the three-way collision between their own work on PICS, Netscape’s MCF and Microsoft’s XML-Data. It is supposed to capture the valuable parts of all three and smooth out the inconsistencies. Definitely work in progress.

WIDL: Web Interface Definition Language, from WebMethods, Inc., is an idiosyncratic proposal for adding some tags to HTML to be used in defining APIs to existing HTML forms-based applications.

XML-Data: This is a proposal, mostly from Microsoft, for a layer on top of XML to describe metadata and a grab bag of other useful things (including an alternative to the traditional SGML DTD). It was authored substantially in reaction to Netscape’s MCF; like MCF, it is now grist for the RDF mill.

Tim Bray