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Chapter 37. Toward XML > XML in Theory and Practice

XML in Theory and Practice

XML is so logical you might wonder why it took so long to be invented. Part of the answer is that the basic concepts have been around for a long time but were only recently applied to computer data files. A component-based parts list, for example, is a trivial requirement for putting together any complex mechanical device. But the idea of extending this paper tool to the electronic one, and generalizing the concept so it could be used for anything made up of component parts, including non-physical objects, was a flash of insight very typical of human progress over the centuries.

People organize almost everything into hierarchies. It's the only way to handle truly complex tasks, from buying supplies for the Department of Defense to building space shuttles. Any hierarchical structure can be described with XML, from the parts list that makes up an airliner to the corporate structure of IBM. But XML has limitations. It's not truly object-oriented, for example, so users with problem sets requiring a fully object- oriented (O-O) approach will have some trouble applying XML to their tasks. Initiatives are underway, however, to extend the domain of XML in object-oriented ways, so this limitation might be resolved eventually.


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