Should you use XML or not?
The answer to this question, as is the answer to so many technical questions, is, "It depends."
The main advantages I've found to XML in practice are:
- There are a bevy of tools available to parse, manipulate, and validate XML data. This is part of its appeal as a standard data format. Other standards would have this advantage if folks rallied behind them as they have XML, but they haven't so they don't. You don't need to do much work to parse, search, or validate an XML document. If you are trading data between applications / environments / languages, this can be _hugely_ advantageous. Its strength by simply being a widely adopted standard can't be underestimated.
- It represents heirarchical data very well. If your data is not heirarchical, then you really need to think twice before jumping on the XML bandwagon.
- The format is (rather easily) human-readable. I realize this is not the most important aspect of the specification, but it can be very nice in practice.
There you have it. To me, it's not much more complicated than that. If your data only needs treatment by in-house developers who understand the schema and know a few things about SQL, then it's far more trouble than it's worth. If the data is heirarchical and needs to be represented in HTML and other kinds of documents in a variety of ways or if diverse tools need to exchange data, then it is a very nice tool.
Those are the business / technical considerations.
The personal considerations for me have been that, like SQL, XML is something that I know I will use time and time again in a variety of situations. So when I had an opportunity to learn to use it, I jumped on it. So while you may or may not decide that it fits your business needs, your human capital will be that much more valuable if you become comfortable with it out sooner rather than later.
Hope this helps :-)
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