XML is a mark-up language that was invented originally as means to transport and display data independently of any software or platform, its underlying aim was to allow richly structured documents to be displayed over the internet in a consistent way, regardless of the browser used or even the browser version. However to this day developers continue to argue about the merits of XML over HTML and whether we need XML at all.

But concerns aside, XML is infinitely more powerful than HTML because its far more flexible, HTML provides and indeed predefines rigid tags for your data, for example title should be contained within the title tag, body elements should be contained within the body tag and so on.

XML on the other hand allows you to create your own tags as it only specifies the standards with which you can define your tags, which means you use any description you like to label your tags or containers and you can define an infinite number of languages based on the standards that are defined by XML, and so XML is more like a meta-mark-up language

Benefits Of XML

XML has a number of key benefits, the most notable and obvious of which include;

  • You are free to use your own mark-up elements or tags and can even mark-up tags on the fly that previously did not exist.
  • XML offers far better and much richer facilities for browser presentation and performance.
  • XML has amazing compression abilities that are far greater than HTML or standard text which gives XML a performance edge in data streaming.
  • XML information is much more vibrant and rich because of the better hypertext linking capabilities of XML versus HTML.

Weaknesses of XML

As well as its benefits, XML also has a number of weaknesses, the most notable and obvious of which include;

  • XML can be incredibly large and cumbersome, which is why in some areas such as web services, JSON has become the preferred choice
  • XML is not yet fully developed to allow total freedom in undertaking any programming task, in terms of full standards compliance. XSL and XSLT are a step in the right direction but they also are far from being in a perfect state.
  • XML Hypertext Transfer Protocol (XML-HTTP) problems still exist.


Overall XML is a far more evolved way of working with data, however if you are going to be developing XML based web applications it is important to understand the limitations and constraints that could affect the performance of any XML server, For example the kind of data, the ratio of tags to text, attributes to elements and even the amount of waste white space can all impact on the performance of any XML server.

Another good point with XML is the introduction of DOM, thanks to Microsoft, DOM stands for Document Object Model and is invaluable tool for loading and parsing XML files. DOM is a great way to navigate your files, to gather information and to manipulate those files.

It’s also a great way to work with your XML files and in particular is ideal for creating and displaying XML documents using code such as ASP and Visual Basic, you can also use XML VB tools such as MSMXL and Liquid XML Visual Basic to help parse, edit and generate your VB code from your XML.