Data Management Blog: Xml, JSON, and Darwinian competition


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Xml, JSON, and Darwinian competition

Recently gave a presentation on the relationship between JSON and Xml technologies.  I'd set it in the context of "friend or foe" as there are lots of people who frame the relationship between these two as some sort of competition in a zero sum game or a Darwinian death match.  On the one hand, Xml as the incumbent who is trying to fend off the nipping upstart, saying that JSON simply isn't a king killer.  On the other hand, the insurgent JSON is poised to topple the bloated, over-the-hill, yesterday technology.  Wresting the title from reluctant dinosaurs.

Having worked in both data integration as well as content management spaces, I've seen both natures and how they react to Xml and JSON.  I think the former are very hot on the JSON track, and rightly so.  With cloud applications, bandwidth is now an issue again.  And then there's mobile applications.  Light weight, simply data structures for not overly complex data can make a huge beneficial difference.  So JSON will continue to have an increasing role there.

The content folks see value but are a little less keen on the the JSON value proposition. An example of some skepticism is the concept mixed content (elements intermingling with text).  This is a big, bright line that differentiates the two technologies.  Having tried several methods to work with this myself, I find that Xml's inherent support for mixed content is a really nice relief.  And content management will tend to run into mixed content more frequently than data integration specialists.  Still, content folks see some value in JSON for sure.  They don't like Xml's bloat any more than anyone else.

Ultimately however, this isn't a death match.  The Darwin analogy doesn't mean there can be only one survivor.  But an array of creatures that each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Like programming languages or Galapagos island animals, there is room for many.  I like JSON and find it very useful and fast for development.  I've developed JSON applications and experimented with JSON Schema in fact.  (More to come on this in another post.)  And when I come into contact with complex content structures or mixed content of any kind, I'm glad Xml is still in the toolbox.

© Copyright Paul Kiel.