What Is XML

XML (eXtensible Markup Language) is a text based language used to structure and store data.

Core Concepts

Markup Language: Similar to HTML (the language used to build web pages), XML uses tags to define the structure and meaning of data. But while HTML tags describe how to display content, XML tags describe the content itself.

Data Representation: XML represents data in a hierarchical tree like format making it clear how different pieces of information relate to each other.


<name>Alice Johnson</name>
<email>[email protected]</email>
<phone type="mobile">555-1234</phone>

Why XML Is Important

Flexibility: XML is entirely customizable. You can define your own tags to represent any kind of data imaginable.

Platform Independent: XML is just plain text so it can be read and processed by any software or system regardless of programming language or operating system.

Readability: Both machines and humans can easily understand well structured XML documents.

Separation of Data and Presentation: XML focuses on the data itself allowing it to be repurposed for different displays or outputs without modifying the core information source.

Real World Uses of XML

Data Exchange: XML is a cornerstone for exchanging information between different systems that might not otherwise be compatible.

Configuration Files: Many programs use XML to store their settings and preferences.

Web Services: XML formats are usually used to transmit data in APIs and web services (RSS feeds, sitemaps and others).

Document Formats: Specialized XML based formats exist for various industries:

  • SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics (for images)
  • MathML: Mathematical Markup Language
  • XHTML: Stricter version of HTML

Key Things

Not a Programming Language: XML describes data but doesn’t do anything with it directly.

Data Transport: Think of XML as a standardized container to ship data, not the engine of the ship itself.

Often Used with Other Technologies: XML frequently works alongside languages like JavaScript or XSLT for processing and displaying data in different ways.

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