ML is not all it could be. Despite all its promise for free data exchange among disparate applications, Web application developers still contend with XML's shortcomings: it's too verbose, it's too ambiguous to be a true standard, and standards bodies are pulling it in a million different directions. Mike Plusch, CEO/CTO of the Cambridge, Mass., startup Clear Methods
, cites these flaws, along with the complexity it breeds and the static manner in which it's often used, as obstacles that have left the language's dynamic potential for Web-based programming untapped.
Plusch, a Web development veteran of more than 10 years, believes he and Clear Methods co-founder Christopher Fry have a powerful yet simple solution: XML as a general-purpose programming language. With Water, Clear Methods' object-oriented programming language, developers can write executable code in XML, describe persistent structured data on the Web with a simplified, XML 1.0-compatible syntax called ConciseXML, and still utilize the widely known markup capabilities of HTML.
Clear Methods licenses Steam, its development platform for Water, which includes a runtime engine and an IDE. However, Water has a freely available runtime and is openly documented at waterlanguage.org. Designed for deployment on any tier (data, logic, presentation) of a Java environment, Water is flexible enough to replace any special-purpose language that a developer may need to support in today's heterogeneous Web application environments. "The idea," explained Plusch, "is to establish Water as the XML language of choice and then sell the business tools to use it."