XML in the Real World

I recently received a survery from Xml.com and thought I'd share some of the information here. As my regular readers know, I use XML on a regular basis in a variety of ways, but I'm not sold on it being the Silver Bullet as some people seem to think.

The most striking question of the survey was along the lines of “What XML technology do you think 'will make it big' over the next 12 months?”

Here's my answer: Whatever technology *doesn't* get the marketing dollars.

As and example, let's look at RSS. If you don't know about RSS, it's that nifty little orange “XML” that you've probably seen on this site and many others. It's a quick way of letting users know when a site has been updated and often provides the updated content itself. Anyway…

Except for the last 6 months or so, RSS was a pariah in the media. Most people didn't – and probably still don't – have a clue what it is, what it does, or how to use it. It was thoroughly embedded in the real XML guru's consciousness, but the technology consultants and marketing dollars simply weren't there. Those people were focused on BPEL, SOA, and a variety of other things. Now, RSS is everywhere and BPEL and SOA pundits are still having to explain exactly “what they do”. Now, all of the serious browsers support integrated RSS readers in addition to having dozens of sites which aggregate feeds for you. Hmm.

Does this model hold everywhere? I don't think so, but I think it's reasonable enough to build a few assumptions:

First, marketing budgets != technology acceptance != useful tools. For a decade, there has been the argument of “the best technology doesn't necessary win out, the biggest marketing budget does”, but I think this is steadily being weakened for two reasons: distributed decision makers and too much to do. Many companies still believe “we don't use Linux anywhere” while the people who actually do the work use whatever fits their requirements.

Next, technology decisions are not made from the top down. The marketing dollars are focused at the CIO's and the CTO's who are believed to chart the overall direction of the ship, but they're not the ones manning the oars. Once again, we go to the line-level geek, developer, admin who is going to use the best tools they can find to get the job done.

Finally, many of the high dollar consultants who come in and evangelize these technologies simply don't have a clue. They may know their given industry, but it's nearly impossible to know the details of the day to day operations and it is quite likely that they've been “out of the game” for years. Therefore these people will often be ignored and mocked. Though most geeks are polite enough to do this afterwards.

So “What XML technology do *I* think 'will make it big' over the next 12 months?”

Whatever makes it big with the people actually doing the work. I suspect this will be something along the lines of using XML as an output format to talk to other applications more and more, but I'm just one guy, not an XML guru, so take that with a block of salt.