Meanwhile, XML Sneaks into Internet World

January 10, 1998

Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol 2, No 5
January, 1998 by Liora Alschuler and George Alexander

While XML was on center stage at the Washington event, it was merely a sideshow at the much larger Internet World conference and trade show held the same week in New York . Yet XML’s appearance at all at Internet World was a sign of changing times: Vendors with no previous connections to SGML or structured markup are looking at how to make use of the new standard in their products. Sybase and Allaire, for example, announced their intentions to add XML support to their database-related products in the first half of 1998.

Off the show floor, in a mezzanine-level suite Microsoft rented out as its own press room, Microsoft gave one-on-one demonstrations of XML in Internet Explorer 4. The demo, based on a fictitious online auction, uses content tagging to update each prospective buyer’s screen with the latest bids. Bid information can be sent independently from the rest of the page, so that each participant sees the screen updated very quickly as new bids are placed. The demo requires server-side components, but if you have the patience you can download it all from the XML portion of Microsoft’s Web site. The main page, which also links to white papers, specifications and other resources, is at

Downstairs in the conference, attenders were brought up to speed on XML standards in a session led by Tim Bray and Jon Bosak. It was the first time that Mecklermedia offered an XML-specific session.

At the same time, across town at Times Mirror, a group of legal publishers, most of them well-versed in SGML, met to listen to several consultants and vendors explain what XML might do for them. The response was cordial: SGML publishers seem well aware that XML will play a role in their future online products, but they’ve seen enough over the past ten years to avoid getting overly excited about the latest promises.

At another offsite meeting¾a preview of David Coursey’s Internet Showcase¾WebMethods showed an interesting utility that uses XML as a metalanguage for describing data conversions. The application is designed for grabbing the content of HTML pages and loading them into other applications. WebMethods specifies the conversion mapping.

WebMethods built a sample application for DHL, the courier service company. Competing courier services, such as UPS and Federal Express, have set up Web sites that let customers check on the status of jobs. WebMethods built an application that runs queries to these sites and then pulls the data back in a uniform fashion into a new Web page that has status information for all of your packages sent through any of the major carriers.

Also at Internet World, Chrystal Software showed how the Astoria document management system, which manages SGML or XML-tagged documents, could automatically generate the XML metadata necessary to create Microsoft channels.