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What Is XML?

XML was born out of one simple observation: Exchanging data between different computer programs is a difficult task. All the systems attempting to share data have to speak the same “language.” This starts getting really messy when different companies (who may even be rivals) build the programs. Don’t forget that there are lots of different types of data that might need to be exchanged and that data can look very different. Stock exchange information doesn’t exactly look a lot like baseball scores, does it?

XML gets around these problems by not actually defining the full language for data exchange. Instead, it just lays out the syntax for languages to be built from it (this is why it’s called extensible!). Superficially, XML looks a lot like HTML, as it should because they both have roots in a much older markup language, Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). If you know HTML, you already know quite a bit about XML— opening and closing tags, tag attributes, and so on. However, there is quite a bit different between the two as well. XML is much more strict than HTML is. When working with XML, you have to be aware of some specific syntax rules:


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