Wrapping Up 1998

December 18, 1998

Liora Alschuler

For those who have been tracking XML since before it was XML, the annual GCA-sponsored confabs have always been more than just another tradeshow, just another conference. Timed for the end of the calendar year, each has been a milestone, an opportunity to look back on the past year, to catch up with the latest tools and techniques and to project where the industry may be heading in the next 12 months. It was at this conference two years ago, after all, that XML was announced and one year ago that the Proposed Recommendation was presented.

With attendance well over 1,100, a sold-out exhibition floor, and over 500 people starting the week early in tutorials, GCA’s XML ’98 Chicago was the place to be this fall to track the structured markup industry. Where all those tracks are leading is another question. The big-gun database vendors, IBM and Oracle, see XML as a pathway into and out of their data management tools. The big-gun browser vendors, Netscape and Microsoft, see XML as the e-commerce everywhere technology. The big-gun book and document publishers, for all media, are seeing a new influx of tools, integrators, and interest but the direction XML publishing will take is less well-defined and more contingent on linking and style specs still in the hands of the W3C.

Like the Chicago rail yards a couple of blocks away, the conference itself conveyed powerful aggregations of technologies and directed energies, but seemed to be going in many directions at once. It will take some years before the use of XML for data, for documents, for messaging, for publishing, and for e-commerce sorts itself out, and the audience, the presenters, and the vendors share a common understanding of the multiple tracks and their final destinations.

In the meantime, we've prepared our own wrap-up of the event, covering the major technology developments as 1998 comes to a close.