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Intranet Design Magazine: XSLT, the XML Babelfish: De-Balkanizing the most important standard...

Apr 05, 2000, 04:51 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Weinberger)

"XML is the most fabulous standard since the Universal Flavor System expanded Pantone's trademark empire from all the known colors to most of the major flavors including licorice, chicken, the aftertaste of spoiled pistachios and Type O human blood. But there's just one small problem: XML is a standard for writing standards and if those standards don't agree, then we've balkanized data rather than united it."

"an aircraft maintenance manual may have one set of tags while a record of an electronic commerce transaction may have a different one. The problem occurs when two aircraft manufacturers create different DTDs for the same type of object, or when a merchant and its suppliers have different tag sets for encoding transaction data that they're trying to share. ... Either you agree with your partners on an industry-wide DTD or you come up with a way to translate one tag set into another. Clearly, the first alternative is preferable, but just as clearly there are going to be times when it just ain't gonna happen."

"Enter XSLT, Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations, which was recommended for general use by the W3C in November. It presents a standard way to map tag sets to one another and even to handle two differing tree structures. XSLT can also be used to convert an XML document into HTML for display in a browser, so the tag in the aircraft document called "Section_Heading" can be translated into an H2 (or whatever) when the browser goes to put it up on screen."

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