Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Coming Overthrow of XML - Orderly Makes Further Strides

My feeling that XML is due to be dethroned grows stronger by the month.

A quick recap of recent history:

First, JSON offered a simpler data structure than the angle bracketed format of Unicode XML. But that still lacked rigour around data definition, so even though XML suffered the confusion of having at least three competing schema definition languages (XML Schema, RelaxNG and Schematron), the world did have a way to specify data types, formats and constraints with XML that JSON could not match.

Then, thanks to Kris Zyp, JSON Schema appeared on the scene and plugged the rigour gap. JSON Schema parsers now exist for a number of languages including Java. One of the design decisions of JSON Schema was for a schema document itself to be valid JSON, much as XML Schema is itself valid XML. Unfortunately, this meant that brevity wasn't JSON Schema's strong point because the JSON way of expressing properties is necessarily long-winded.

The third shoe has dropped now (never mind the grotesque image that conjures up of the wearer). Orderly is a new schema language developed by Lloyd Hilaiel that is far more compact than JSON Schema and yet round-trips to JSON Schema quite effectively. [There's a really cool Ajax-y screen that converts back and forth between Orderly and JSON Schema before your eyes, so you can tweak either code to see how it looks in the other representation.]

Bottomline: SOA architects can recommend the use of the simpler JSON data format instead of XML without having to worry about the lack of rigour in data definition. Data architects, designers and developers can use Orderly to design schemas without bothering about JSON Schema's cumbersome syntax. JSON parsers can work with the equivalent JSON Schema to validate a piece of JSON data without the need to understand two different syntaxes.

A great solution, and it's all come together quite nicely in time for Christmas. Thanks to Lloyd (and Kris before him) for a wonderful Christmas present to all SOA practitioners, and ultimately, everyone wrestling with XML in any capacity.

1 comment:

ncarr said...

Because Schematron schemas are ultimately turned into code, they are not constrained to XML/XSLT. They can also be deployed as Javascipt. See Rick Jelliffe's blog.