XML: You'd think it couldn't get worse
There is an old saying about things having to get worse before they get better. And the news that yet more XML standards are being proposed is at least an indication that things are still getting worse.
The first new standard is VCML and the second, which doesn't have a name yet, is to be developed by the Salt Forum.
VCML, which stands for the Value Chain Markup Language, has been developed by Vitria and uses XML to transmit documents created using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).
EDI was riddled with almost as many standards as XML and, in this first release, VCML supports 11 industry EDI specifications, including the Aerospace, Automotive and Health Care sectors, which is good for companies in those sectors but not much use for anybody else.
Unfortunately, VCML is not alone. Earlier this year SAP and Sun got together with Commerce One to address this same problem, coming up with something called Business Object Documents. In commmon with VCML this has been submitted to the ebXML/EDIFACT committee for use as a standard. And then again, there is RosettaNet, though many regard this as a too-technical approach.
Of course there is an alternative. You could use a mapping tool which will convert EDI documents into whatever form of XML you like. eXcelon, for example, offers such a facility. eXcelon too has an XML standard proposal, though this is in a slightly different arena. It has developed an XML update language. That is, it allows you to update XML documents using XML. So far, there are very few companies working in this area so this has a realistic chance of being adopted by W3C as at least the basis for such a language.
Pillars of Salt
The Salt Forum consists of Cisco, Comverse, Intel, Intel, Microsoft, Philips and Speechworks International and it aims to support speech input via wireless devices. Salt is an acronym for Speech Application Language Tags.
Initially Salt is to define specifications (which it hopes to complete by Spring 2002) for embedding speech into HTML and xHTML and plans to address the issues of putting speech tags into XML at a later date. The idea is that you should be able to embed such tags into existing pages without having to rewrite existing applications. Quite how this will fit with VoiceXML, of which IBM is a major proponent, is unsure.
As we said at the beginning, things are getting worse. The question is, does that mean that they will get better? Let's hope so.