With the quantity of data generated every day, the total amount of data generated by 2025 is estimated to be over 180 zettabytes. When such a large amount of data is generated, the question of effective storage emerges. XML is used to solve this problem. In this blog, we are going to talk about what is an XML file.
To begin with, we need to understand the basics of XML
The abbreviation XML stands for “extensible markup language.” XML is one of the most widely used methods for storing and transmitting data over the internet. The “.xml” extension indicates that an XML file contains XML code.
Many software products are intended to read XML files, and you can do so with only a little understanding of how they function. Let’s break down the meaning of XML one term at a time.
XML is a computer language that can be read and used by software systems. The goal of XML is to store data in a way that can be easily read by software applications and transferred between them. XML doesn’t do anything with the data but store it, similar to a database.
Tags indicate what the information is, whereas plain text represents the information. Every tag represents a type of data and instructs the PC on how to handle the plain text data included within it. Tags are only designed to be viewed by the software itself, not by the user.
An element is a name given to each instance of an XML tag. Elements in an XML file are ordered in a hierarchy, implying that they will contain additional elements. The topmost portion is referred to as the “root” part, and it contains all alternative elements, also referred to as “child” elements.
Tags are the elements that make XML a markup language. The term “markup” originated from the practice of book editors using a pencil to “mark up” author manuscripts, instructing authors on what to change within the text. HTML, often known as HyperText Markup Language, is another type of markup. Both are not the same, however, HTML pages frequently use XML files to get their information.
Unlike HTML, XML does not have the limitations of HTML because there is no intended collection of XML tags. Developers, on the other hand, can create a limitless number of custom tags to meet their data requirements. The “X” in XML stands for extensive customization.
Document Type Definition (DTD) is written which is XML’s version of a tag library to create custom tags. An XML file’s DTD is indicated at the top of the file and is an indication of what to do further. Therefore the role of extensive in XML is crucial.
To conclude the basics, an XML file is a type of data file that contains hierarchical parts. Custom tags, which specify the type of element, can be used by computer systems to access data stored in XML files.
History of XML
IBM developed the first formal language in the late 1900s. It was previously known as GML (Generalized Markup Language). This resulted in the creation of a standard generic markup language, which provided the basis for several alternative markup languages in the future.
Regularly, scientists at CERN need to exchange research papers and refer to several papers. Working in this manner and keeping track of all the papers wasn’t easy back then. Tim Berners-Lee and a few others recognized that they could create a simple document format that allows documents to be linked. They also considered content structure to make it easier for browsers to view the document. HTML stands for the hypertext markup language, and it retains all of the basic features of conventional generic markup language.
HTML was useful for displaying static text and resolving display and layout issues. It was insufficient in terms of data and structured knowledge exchange. It was insufficient for the data-driven nature of data interchange.
For the web, SGML (Standard General Markup Language) was developed. DTDs that could indicate individual business needs were necessary for a standard generalised markup language. Sgml advanced for the web was constructed using this DTD and many optional features of the standard generalised markup language. Because of the flexible nature of SGML, its rules became hazy, and browser vendors sought to tailor it to their own needs, making it inflexible for the web.
A standard called EDI was used for e-commerce and knowledge exchange. However, this was both costly and complicated. Its application necessitated the employment of specialised technologies for each of the several enterprises.
For all of the above concerns, XML was created from a standard generic markup language. XML was easier to invent because of previous experiences with all of the technologies mentioned. After experiencing problems with the numerous technologies stated above, the need for a certain type of technology became evident. It was chosen as SGML’s best feature. It was created for the web and has the endorsement of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It had been originally named web standard generalized markup language and later named XML (Extensible Markup Language)
Advantages of XML
1. XML is platform agnostic and programming language agnostic, thus it can be used on any system and adapt to changes in technology.
2. Unicode is supported by XML. Unicode is a global cryptographic standard for use with a wide range of languages and scripts, in which each letter, digit, or image is given a unique numeric value that is transferable between systems and programmes. This functionality allows XML to send data written in any human language.
3. Validation with DTD and Schema is possible with XML. This validation verifies that there are no syntax errors in the XML document.
4. Because of its platform independence, XML makes information interchange between multiple platforms easier. When transferring XML data between systems, there is no need to convert it.
Disadvantages of XML
1. When compared to other text-based information transfer formats such as JSON, XML syntax is wordy and redundant.
2. When compared to other text-based information transfer formats such as JSON, an XML document is more difficult to read.
3. Arrays are not supported by XML.
Although the world may come out with better and quicker technologies than XML, the data storage sector still prefers it. It is dependable and widely used. We may expect better improvements from this important markup language in the future.