Sun extends Java to support XML
March 26, 1999
by James Niccolai
(IDG) -- Sun Microsystems has announced it is creating an extension for the Java platform to provide support for the Extensible Markup Language (XML). The company said this move will make it easier for developers to build applications that integrate the two technologies.
The extension will take the form of a standard API that will be developed using the Java Community Process, which takes input from multiple vendors to define Java standards.
XML is used to create documents that are distributed over networks such as the Internet, and is sometimes seen as a successor to HTML. While HTML describes only how a document is formatted, XML provides more complete information about the data, making it a more flexible tool.
Several XML proponents -- including Sun, IBM, and Microsoft -- have already developed programs that allow applications written in Java to read XML. Sun's goal is to define a standard that will ensure that those programs, known as "parsers," will all work together, said Nancy Lee, Sun's senior product manager for XML.
"There are a lot of different implementations out there at the moment. [A common extension for XML] will benefit enterprises because they'll be able to count on this API to be stable and secure, and they needn't be concerned about incompatibilities with each vendor using a proprietary parser," Lee said.
XML also offers a standard format for exchanging data between businesses and could help lower the cost of developing applications for electronic commerce, supply-chain management, and other programs that rely on business-to-business communications, Lee said.
"That's the promise of XML, but there's still a lot of work to be done," Lee said. For starters, vertical industries need to define common vocabularies for the information they want to exchange, she said.
The extension for XML will provide standard classes to generate and manipulate XML, as standard extensions should be available for just about every Java platform, Lee said.
"Developers won't need to build these classes themselves, and XML documents won't be as bulky as they might be because we won't need to include these classes in the application code," said Anne Thomas, senior consultant at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston.
Sun has outlined an initial version of the XML extension, which provides basic functionality, including the capability to read, manipulate, and generate XML-based data streams and formats, the company said. That version will provide a starting point for the Java Community Process.
James Niccolai is a correspondent for the IDG News Service in San Francisco.
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