Why XML Is The “Swiss Army Knife” Of Computer Language For The Internet

In this article I want to introduce the work of xmlarmyknife.org.  But first why is the site called XML Army Knife? Well we all know what a swiss army knife is right?  Its a pocket tool crammed full of useful gadgets such as a screw driver, knife, corkscrew, can opener, tweezers.  Some even have a magnifying glass, scissors and saw.  They have proved so useful and so versatile that the concept of a “Swiss Army Knife” has been applied to other fields (beyond hand tools and multi-tools).

When it comes to programming, I’d define XML as the “Swiss Army Knife” of computer language due to its versatility.  XML is actually a language within a language or more specifically a markup language that can be applied to practically any type of document.  It’s a lightweight language that strips things down to their basics.  This means it’s simple and easily understandable.  You don’t have to be a computer programming heavy weight to master XML.

Here are two examples of how XML is used on the web.

  • XML is the markup language of choice for real estate data.  All you need to do is to tag different data points to describe what they are.   THis then allows you to display the information in a useful format.  So the title of the property, before the price, before the property description for example.  And if all MLS systems use the same XML markup the data can be aggregated and compared making it more useful for real estate agents and investors alike.
  • The second example we have referred to in our introductory piece, but as it’s use is so widespread I thought I’d list it here aswell.  As website owners we want all the search engines to crawl our pages.  Given the complexity of some website structures it can be hard for these engines to effectively “spider” the entire site.  That’s where XML site maps using a special markup language come into play.

I could go on with more examples.  But I think I’ve made my point.  XML can be considered the “swiss army knife” of computer language for the web.