XML, Extensible Markup Language, grew out of its immediate predecessor, SGML, or Standard Generalized Markup Language. It was formalized by a working group in the W3C, who created the initial working draft dated November 14, 1996. That draft grew into a W3C recommendation whose first version, XML 1.0, was released in February, 1998. It is safe to say that in the IT industry, wherever data is being exchanged between two entities, XML is probably somewhere in the mix. As John Swanson, the XML zone Content Editor from 2002 through 2006, remarked for this article, "XML's biggest contribution is that it has helped bring together many disparate systems and processes, and enabled data to flow more smoothly from place to place and system to system."
When developerWorks started in 1999, it was the rising importance and popularity of XML, coupled with IBM's contributions and support for XML from the start, that drove the creation of the XML zone. Viola Suddaby, the current Web editor, recalls joining developerWorks: "As a technical writer, I was excited when I heard about XML in the late 1990s. Exposure to markup languages such as HTML for Web pages plus GML and SGML for product documentation made it easy to appreciate the potential of XML. I continued to work with HTML and eventually used XML to create on-line help files in software programs. When I joined the developerWorks team in the spring of 2001, I felt comfortable with XML...a good thing as I got a double dose of XML. I was the Web editor for the XML and Web architecture (now the Web development) zones plus I worked in XML files as I edited content. Even after eight years with developerWorks and the XML zone, I continue to be impressed with our authors and their knowledge about XML and how XML adapts to old and new technologies."
Let's talk about those authors. The success of the zone over the years is due to one thing: good, knowledgeable authors who understood the importance and workings of XML and could teach the rest of us through well-written articles and tutorials. It would be impossible to talk about (and thank) all of the authors who contributed over the years, but there are a number of authors who seem to have struck a chord with readers. They were and, in most cases, still are, the most popular authors as measured by readership and we can stroll through the history of the zone by looking at some of them. We picked the brains of the past editors of the zone, and looked through the readership statistics to come up with this list. It was an interesting task.
Some of our top authors have been with developerWorks and the XML zone for a long time. The early years of the XML zone were also the early years of XML. The articles written by this early group provided the basics of XML to countless developers, and still do to this day. Which explains why they account for many of the most popular articles in this zone.
A well-written tutorial
|It doesn't matter whether you ask the editors or look at the statistics: One piece of content rises above the rest over the years, appearing on almost every "Top 10" list as far back as we have available numbers. It is a tutorial written in 1999, one of the first to be published on the zone. As you would expect, it was written to introduce people to this relatively young technology. Doug Tidwell was an IBM developer and XML evangelist in those early years, and wrote the tutorial, "Introduction to XML." Doug has been a prolific and very popular writer over the years for developerWorks, and he still spends his time teaching and consulting for IBM. His tutorial, which has been updated several times, has been visited by tens of thousands of readers over the years, and remains our most popular tutorial to this day.|
Doug has one other important distinction: He was the first XML zone author, having written "XML and how it will change the Web" in November, 1999. That was the first of roughly a thousand articles and tutorials for the XML zone. We asked Doug about the good old days, and he said, "I'm very proud to have been on the developerWorks team at the beginning, even before the launch of the site. When everything started, my job was to shout new technology from the rooftops and create as much content as possible. That's how the 'Introduction to XML' tutorial got started. I remember putting the finishing touches on the tutorial sometime around 4:30 a.m."
Although Doug is now "shouting" about open standards, he says, "I'll always think of myself as part of the developerWorks family."
More XML matters
|David Mertz provided the first XML zone column, XML Matters. In a series of 49 articles starting in August, 2000, David covered a wide variety of XML-related topics. Browse through the list of articles from the first one to his last one in 2007, and you can see a great chronology of XML development. David wrote several articles about DocBook, reflecting XML's document publishing heritage. XSLT gets plenty of early attention. In 2001, an article compares DTD to XML schema (that new technology), more articles describe XML processing with Python, and other articles relate XML to databases and database models. 2002 and 2003 provided articles related to tools, parsers and editors in particular. SAX shows up in 2003. 2004 appears to be the year of heavy usage. There are articles about using XML to represent GUI configurations, election and voting data, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), and document metadata. Atom appears in 2006.|
At the same time he was writing for the XML zone, David was also writing a series of articles about Python in a column entitled Charming Python. David can be reached at email@example.com; his life pored over at http://gnosis.cx/publish/. Check out David's book Text Processing in Python at http//gnosis.cx/TPiP/. See Resources for links to the lists of articles in the XML Matters and Charming Python columns.
Another expert led the way
|Brett McLaughlin's first XML article appeared in May, 2000. It was right after the publication of his book, Java and XML, and we were fortunate to engage him for his XML expertise and writing experience. Since that time, he has written for many of the developerWorks zones and has over 60 articles in the XML zone alone. One of his key early accomplishments was to author a series of "tips"—articles that explained in detail how to best accomplish one task with XML. Published in 2001, these appeared at a time when everyone was still learning the technology and tools, and Brett's articles provided practical, usable advice about how to do something important. The usefulness of these tips led to their popularity among readers.|
Brett produced several other practical series over the years. The next set was a column, Practical data binding, in 2004. This was followed by a set of 11 articles dealing with the hot topic of the day in 2006 and into 2007: Mastering Ajax. In fact, Ajax is still a hot topic on developerWorks in 2009.
Brett has been writing, editing, and producing technical books for nearly a decade, and is as comfortable in front of a word processor as he is behind a guitar, chasing his two sons around the house, or laughing at reruns of Arrested Development with his wife. His last book, Head First Object Oriented Analysis and Design, won the 2007 Jolt Technical Book award. His classic Java and XML remains one of the definitive works on using XML technologies in the Java language. Brett continues to write for developerWorks and you can find a list of his XML articles in Resources, as well as links to his latest books.
Think about XML
|Uche Ogbuji is an entrepreneur, software engineer, and writer who lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and three sons. He's a leading expert in data architecture and distributed systems, working towards the integration of next-generation Web systems with established enterprise technology. Uche wrote his first XML article for developerWorks in February, 2001. It was a tip about using RDF to document stylesheets. But Uche really became a well-read author when he starting the Thinking XML column later that month. Since then, Uche has published over 40 Thinking XML articles and has become a well-known authority in XML. Beginning in July, 2002, he did a series of articles about the new technology, Resource Description Framework (RDF), and how it relates to a number of other technologies. Uche was right on that bleeding edge: RDF had become a W3C recommendation in February. It isn't a coincidence, however, as Uche played a pioneering role in the establishment of technologies such as XML, RDF, and SOA.|
Uche has a unique role in the XML zone: He wrote most of the descriptions for the many standards found in our Standards view. The information was introduced in an article series, "A survey of XML standards," in 2004. It was quite an undertaking by that time as XML was firmly intertwined with other technologies (Web services, SOA, databases, Web development) and the number of standards had increased exponentially between 1996 and 2004.
Since that time, Uche has written about a wide array of topics ranging from introducing new XML technologies, designing good XML schemas, interviews with XML experts, book reviews, specific tips, and discussions about XML in general and where it is headed. You can find a link to all of his articles in Resources. And keep an eye out for the next set of Thinking XML articles.
After several years, the articles in the XML zone began to take on some different topics. XML was being used in a rapidly expanding set of tools, products, and technologies. While we still produced a lot of articles and tips aimed at new XML developers, there began to appear more articles about the newer technologies that were making use of XML. As John Swanson remembers it, "From 2002 to 2006, the world began to truly realize how versatile XML can be. As a result, we saw an explosion of XML-related technologies: XHTML, XQuery, DITA, XSLT, XForms, data binding, Atom, and much much more. New standards seemed to pop up every week and keeping track of them all was like playing Whack-a-Mole." During this period, the developerWorks editorial team began incorporating XML into its editorial process, so it was in our best interest to learn as much as possible about XML.
More tips, XForms, and Atom
|Nicholas Chase is a writer, software engineer, and metaverse developer. Nicholas wrote his first XML article for developerWorks in May, 2002, the first of a dozen solid tips published that year. He followed up with a series of articles and tips about XForms in 2006 and 2007 that generated a lot of reader interest. In 2007, he wrote a series about Atom and has continued to write articles ever since. Check out Nick's articles in Resources.|
Nick has been a high school physics teacher, a low-level radioactive waste facility manager, an online science fiction magazine editor, a multimedia engineer, and an Oracle instructor. He has written several books on XML, including XML Primer Plus. He also recently wrote a book about business applications and virtual worlds.
Looking forward and backward
|By the time of his first XML article for developerWorks in November, 2004, Elliotte Rusty Harold had published several books dealing with Java and XML. Elliotte wrote some of the most-read articles on the site. He produced articles about developing with XML, using XML with Java, predictions about XML, and reviews of XML's progress. In 2005, Elliotte wrote articles for the column Managing XML Data, a series of very practical articles about how to develop correctly with XML. Interspersed with these articles were a number shorter tips, all based upon his experience in the field since the mid-nineties.|
If you check out the list of Elliotte's articles (in Resources), you will see a string of articles that cover the technical development aspects, but you will also see several articles in 2006 and 2007 where Elliotte predicted what would happen in that year, and then courageously reviewed his own predictions at the end of the year. These are interesting for two reasons: Elliotte has a certain style in these articles, and they present a short synopsis of the state of XML during that period. They are entertaining and informative—recommended reading.
As popular as many of his articles were years ago, some are still widely-read now. In fact, three of the XML zone Top 10 articles for August, 2009, were written by Elliotte: "Simple XML Processing with PHP: A markup-specific library for XML processing in PHP," "The Java XPath API: Querying XML from Java programs," and "New elements in HTML 5: Structure and semantics."
Elliotte is originally from New Orleans, to which he returns periodically in search of a decent bowl of gumbo. However, he resides in the University Town Center neighborhood of Irvine with his wife Beth, dog Shayna, and cats Charm (named after the quark) and Marjorie (named after his mother-in-law).
By 2005, XML was an established technology supported by hundreds of tools and APIs and industry schemas and open standards. There was a definite shift from articles that were mostly XML-specific to articles where XML was integrated with something else—Web development, user interfaces, Web Services, REST-based APIs, Java, PHP, and, of course, Ajax. The "X" in Ajax is XML, and the rise of Ajax was startling—and XML went along for the ride.
Trying to keep up
|Jack Herrington is a software engineer and author who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. While he is a specialist in front end technologies like Ajax, Flex, Silverlight, and DHTML among others, he works the entire application stack from the fun stuff at the front to the database stuff on the back. Jack wrote his first two XML articles for the XML zone in February, 2005, and talked about XSLT 2.0. Yup, version 2.0 That was the other change in article content: The standards were on their second or even third version, and there were articles on the "new stuff". But Jack's claim to fame is his articles for the Ajax and XML column. Timing was everything and this series of articles rode the crest of the Ajax excitement in 2006 and 2007. Jack also wrote about other popular topics for that time: PHP, Ruby, and Rails. Those two years were very interesting times for everyone doing development, and articles like Jack's did very well.|
Linda Meyer, the content editor for the XML zone from 2006 through 2008, recalled the flurry of activity during that time: "It was an exciting time for XML. Not only was there increased interest in upcoming technologies such as Ajax, mashups, and semantic Web, but new product support for XML, such as IBM DB2's PureXML helped support adoption."
Jack continues to write articles for developerWorks and you can find a link to all of his articles in Resources.
How many ways?
|Vikram Vaswani is the founder and CEO of Melonfire, a company specializing in content creation and syndication. He is a passionate proponent of the open-source movement and frequently contributes articles and tutorials on open-source technologies—including XML, Perl, Python, PHP, MySQL and Linux—to the community at large. An experienced application developer, author, and Felix Scholar at the University of Oxford, Vikram combines his interest in Web application development with various other activities: reading crime fiction, watching old movies, playing squash, blogging, and keeping an eye out for unfriendly Agents.|
Vikram's articles have been written in the last two years and reflect the current trend in XML—focus on usage with leading edge technologies and products. In the last several years, the social tools and sites like Facebook and Twitter have taken center stage. There are new players in the world of services with Google and Amazon. All of these new facilities provide APIs—mostly REST-based APIs passing XML documents back and forth. This is the world that Vikram explores in his articles. He focuses on how to hook into these new facilities, and process the information into and out of them—all of it using XML. The attention being paid to these new facilities is reflected in the readers' interest in Vikram's articles.
The last 10 years have seen many changes, many articles, and many authors. We remembered Edd Dumbill, who wrote a series of articles for the XML Watch column between 2002 and 2004. And Benoît Marchal who wrote the Working XML column between 2003 and 2007. Both columns had great reader interest. And Benoît still had two articles in the August, 2009, XML zone Top 10 list: "Tip: Convert Excel data to XML" and "Tip: Convert form HTML to XML with HTML Tidy: Preserve legacy Web sites with this handy utility." Bob DuCharme wrote an article in 2001 which also made this recent Top 10 list: "A simple SOAP Client: A general-purpose Java SOAP client". Even though all of these articles were written some time ago, they still draw readers who need the information. Perhaps things aren't changing as much as we think. The fact is that, because XML was in its infancy in 2000 and 2001, most of the good, introductory XML articles were written then. And they are still good, introductory articles today.
Edd Dumbill, Benoît Marchal, Bob DuCharme, and Jesse Skinner
Some of the newer articles don't quite have enough readers to make the all-time Top 10 list, but they are consistently on the monthly Top 10 lists. One such article is "Simplify Ajax development with jQuery: Discover how easy Ajax and DOM scripting can be," written by Jesse Skinner. This article was written in April, 2007, and is setting readership records. In another 10 years, it could be THE article we will be talking about.
And we had a surprise. It is not an article, but, if it was, our XML zone "New to XML" page would be in the overall Top 20 if not the Top 10. It is clear that, even though XML has been around for more than 10 years, there are still developers who need to learn about XML. Who knows where we'll be in another 10 years?
What do the zone editors think about this 10 year journey? John Swanson stated, "I thoroughly enjoyed working with so many talented authors and editors—many of whom I still work with today, as the newsletter editor." Viola Suddaby is still editing for the XML zone, and observed, "I'm still learning about what XML can do as I edit the articles and tutorials for the XML zone. XML is definitely growing up to be and do more than I ever expected. The knowledge of our authors and the creativity of XML users bode well for the future of the XML zone here on developerWorks." Linda Meyer, who is now working with our developerWorks sites overseas, said, "I really enjoyed working as the XML zone editor from 2006 and 2008. The rapid rate of change in XML in those days kept things interesting for everyone." And Dan Hattenberger, the rookie in the group, commented, "The authors for the XML zone are talented, skilled, and imaginative, and there seems to be no end to the ways in which XML is being used. Good authors make all the difference, and the variety of topics makes my job an exciting one."
And, as authors for this piece, Viola and Dan have a renewed appreciation for the amount of skill and work it takes to write an article. It is much easier to edit someone else's work than to create your own!
Take a thousand articles and hundreds of great, talented authors. Mix them with a half dozen editors and dozens of productive folks who know how to operate a Web site for millions of visitors a year. That's how you get to celebrate 10 years of success. We couldn't showcase all of the authors who contributed to the XML zone during those years—we wanted to, but we can't. All we can do is thank all of you—the authors for writing and our readers for reading. We'll look back again in another 10 years!
- The Extensible Markup Language W3C Working Draft 14-Nov-96 provides a look at the initial intentions, goals, and definitions of XML in its earliest years.
- The very first article written for the XML zone was
XML and how it will change the Web by Doug Tidwell (developerWorks November, 1999).
- The most-read article over the last 10 years is Doug Tidwell's tutorial,
Introduction to XML. It was written in 1999 and updated in 2001 (developerWorks November, 1999).
- David Mertz wrote the first XML zone column, XML Matters, beginning in August, 2000. As you view the list of articles, you can sort the list by ascending date to get a nice glimpse into the history of XML.
- David Mertz also wrote a series of articles on Python for the Linux Zone in a column called
- Brett has written, and continues to write, many articles for developerWorks. You can see all the articles in Brett McLaughlin's column, Practical data binding.
- Check out all of Brett McLaughlin's
You can also obtain Brett's books,
Head First Object Oriented Analysis and Design and
his classic Java and XML.
- Uche Ogbuji has written an extensive
set of articles for the XML zone. You can also find the articles from his popular column, Thinking XML.
- Learn more about Ajax in the Ajax resource center.
- See the list of articles by Nicholas chase, as well as descriptions of his books, XML Primer Plus and Platform Second Life: Developing Real World Applications.
- See a
list of XML articles by Elliotte (Rusty) Harold.
- Elliotte Harold wrote several articles that have maintained their popularity long after they were written: Simple XML Processing with PHP: A markup-specific library for XML processing in PHP (developerWorks October, 2006), The Java XPath API: Querying XML from Java programs (developerWorks August, 2007), and New elements in HTML 5: Structure and semantics (developerWorks August, 2007).
- Check out the Java and XML books books written by Elliotte Rusty Harold.
- See the list of articles by
- Check out the articles and tutorials written by Vikram Vaswani.
- IBM XML certification: Find out how you can become an IBM-Certified Developer in XML and related technologies.
- XML technical library: See the developerWorks XML zone for a wide range of technical articles and tips, tutorials, standards, and IBM Redbooks.
- developerWorks technical events and webcasts: Stay current with technology in these sessions.
- The technology bookstore: Browse for books on these and other technical topics.
podcasts: Listen to interesting interviews and discussions for software developers.
Get products and technologies
- IBM product evaluation versions: Download or explore the online trials in the IBM SOA Sandbox and get your hands on application development tools and middleware products from DB2®, Lotus®, Rational®, Tivoli®, and WebSphere®.
- XML zone discussion forums: Participate in any of several XML-related discussions.
- developerWorks blogs: Check out these blogs and get involved in the developerWorks community.
Dan Hattenberger is currently the Content editor for the XML zone. In previous jobs in a long IBM career, Dan has programming experience developing process control systems, applications, and databases. He has worked with IBM Business Partners since 1988 as a project manager, consultant, e-business Architect, and course instructor. Dan is a certified e-business Solution Designer, Solution Technologist, and an IBM Certified Database Associate. In 2008, Dan became a Content editor and finds that editing someone else's words is much easier than composing them from scratch. Dan enjoys woodworking, racquetball, golf, playing guitar, and traveling, particularly on week-long cruises.
Viola Suddaby is currently the Web editor for the XML zone here on developerWorks. She joined developerWorks in 2001 as the Web editor for the XML and Web architecture (now Web development) zones. Viola's worn many hats including those of an art teacher, a production editor for technical documents, and a technical writer of online help and other documents for computer software. She holds degrees in art education from the University of Central Missouri. For more info, see Viola's profile on My developerWorks.