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Apache Software Foundation launches XML open-source project

November 11, 1999
Web posted at: 8:18 a.m. EST (1318 GMT)

by Ellen Messmer

Network World Fusion

(IDG) -- The nonprofit industry group that provides organizational support for the freely available Apache Web server is taking on a new project intended to make XML part of the open-source movement.

The Apache Software Foundation is making XML parsers and document conversion tools from several vendors, including IBM and Sun, available for free at so that customers can use them to build in-house applications or commercial products. The main purpose is to promote interoperability in XML data exchange as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) continues to work on new standards, such as XML Schema, which is part of the XML standards suite, IBM says.

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IBM is making two of its XML parsers available at the Apache site "to bring about the best possible innovation from the open-source community," says Marie Wieck, IBM's software director. "We want innovation to go back into these tools."

The issue of interoperability in business-to-business use of XML is coming into the spotlight as the W3C is expected to complete work on the XML Schema specification for making XML-based business documents.

Microsoft has taken a different approach with its own technology, called XML Data Reduced Schema (XDR). XDR has become part of the BizTalk XML-based Jumpstart Toolkit and the alpha version of the BizTalk Server.

XML users say they are wary of a proprietary approach to XML, which lets programmers generate format-neutral documents using tools, including XML parsers, for conversion to HTML, EDI or database formats.

"Microsoft has been pressuring us to do XML their way, but I'm reluctant to get locked into building applications that are nonstandard even at this early point," says Karen Koran, Computer Science Corp. (CSC) software programmer.

CSC is involved in an XML pilot project with Microsoft at the U.S. Department of Education. The Education Department would like to use XML as the main data format to send and receive information to its back-end systems in future applications.

The Apache Software Foundation's XML effort is intended to foster XML interoperability by making several vendors' tools and their source code freely available so that ideas for improving them can be heard.

The available tools include:

- IBM's XML4J and XML4C parsers - now renamed Xerces - for reading and validating XML documents in either Java or the C programming language, respectively.

- Sun's Java Project X and its XHMTL Parser, for generating XML, a reformulated HTML 4.0 in XML 1.0, and now a W3C draft specification.

- The Lotus XSLT processor for interpreting the new W3C Xpath and XSL transformation language recommendations.

- DataChannel's X Pages tool for building Web applications that interpret disparate data sources as XML.

- Bowstreet's FOP, an implementation of XSL for print use.

- Developer Stefano Mazzocchi's Cocoon tool for publishing XML in Java

- Exoffice's OpenXML tool, also in Java, for creating XML applications that support the XML standards DOM and the SAX APIs. Exoffice also provided an XSL parser.

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