W3C Has a New XML Standard: XProc

XML has been in use for over a decade and it’s now getting a boost thanks to a new standard from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

This week the W3C officially announced the XProc XML Pipeline Language standard as a new mechanism that will help developers make more efficient use of multiple XML operations.

“There have been a number of XML pipeline proposals in the past, and the industry needed standardization,” Liam Quin, W3C’s XML activity lead, told InternetNews.com. “XML pipelines are an enabling technology — they let people share a workflow in a formal, standardized manner.”

The W3C defines the concept of an XML pipeline as a series of operations performed on XML documents. With XProc, the pipeline can be automated, managed and shared. Quin noted that like all W3C recommendations, XProc has gone through extensive development and public comment over a period of more than two years.

There are a number of use cases where Quin expects that the XProc standard to be leveraged.

“Initially, to augment, and sometimes replace, shell scripts, ant files, makefiles, batch scripts and other ad-hoc ways of specifying sequences of operations,” Quin said. “However, there was previously no glue that let you run XQuery, XSLT, Web Services, XInclude and all the other gamut of XML processing from the same description.”

Quin explained that using XProc begins with defining an XProc pipeline, which is a simple XML document. The XProc implementation can then be used to run a pipeline on other XML documents and it may call out call out to other programs, applications or libraries in order to run individual steps of the pipeline.

As an example, XProc could be used to automate a pipeline sequence of XML operations to pull a news feed and then obtain a stock price and background information about a company from other sources. XProc could then be used to display all the information online, enhanced with other capabilities and data.

While the XProc specification is new, existing XML tools can be used to build pipelines since the descriptions are using standard XML.

“Yes, you can use your existing XML IDE,” Quin said. “There is a schema for validatingyour XML XProc documents.”

With XProc the W3C is continuing the evolution of XML usage specifications that it publishes. Quin noted that the W3C is the primary center of excellence for core XML standards work. He added that the W3C will continue to develop specifications as they are needed.

“The next major specification to watch is likely to be Efficient XML Interchange (EXI), an XML-specific compression format that could revolutionize XML deployment, especially in mobile and embedded applications but also in conjunction with the recently emerging Linked Data and NoSQL movements,” he said.

Tags: W3C, XML, XPRoc, standards, developer

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