XML and e-Commerce
Extensible Markup Language (XML) is similar to XHTML, but XML does possess some distinguishing differences. XML allows users to create customized tags that are unique to specific applications so that users are not limited to using XHTML’s fixed set of publishing-industry-specific tags. For example, developers can make industry-specific (or even organization-specific) tags to categorize data more effectively within their communi-ties. Some industries have already developed standardized XML tags for online document publication. For example, Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) is a standardized XML-based language for the marking up of mathematical formulas in documents, whereas Chemical Markup Language (CML) is a standardized XML-based language for the marking up of the molecular structure of chemicals.
The ability to customize tags enables business data to be used worldwide. For example, businesses can create XML tags specifically for invoices, electronic funds transfers, pur-chase orders and other business transactions. However, to be used effectively, an industry’s customized tags must be standardized across that industry.
Once tags are standardized, the browser must be able to recognize them. This is accom-plished by building the tags into the browser or by downloading the appropriate plug-ins. The process can be automated, because customized XML tags could actually be used as a com-mand for a browser to download the plug-in for the corresponding set of standardized tags.
The impact of XML on e-commerce is profound. XML gives online merchants a supe-rior method of tracking product information. By using standardized tags for data, bots and search engines are able to find products online more quickly.
Many industries are using XML to improve Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the transfer of data between computers. The health care industry, for example, uses XML to share patient information (even CAT-scans) among health care applications. This helps doctors access information and make decisions more quickly, which can improve patient care.
The Health Level Seven (HL7) organization’s Application Protocol for Electronic Data Exchange in Healthcare Environments uses XML. This standard enables health care applica tions to exchange data electronically by specifying the layout and order of information. Patient names, addresses and insurance providers are tagged so that such data can be shared electronically among applications. For example, once a patient’s identification information is entered, that information can be shared over the hospital’s intranet with the labs and the accounting department, eliminating the need to re-enter the same data. HL7 is a non-profit,
American National Standards Institute (ANSI)—an accredited Standards Developing Orga-nization—that focuses on clinical and administrative data. To locate additional information on HL7, visit their Web site at www.HL7.org; the ANSI Web site is www.ansi.org.
The XML Metadata Interchange Format (XMI) is a standard that combines XML with the Unified Modeling Language (UML). Software developers use UML to design object-oriented systems. XMI allows developers using object technology to tag design data. XMI tags allow developers to exchange design data over the Internet and interact with multiple vendors by using a variety of tools and applications. XMI thus enables people worldwide to collaborate on the designs of object-oriented software systems. For more information about XMI, visit www-4.ibm.com/software/ad/features/xmi.html.
Some software companies sell their products over the Web. The Open Software Description Format (OSD) is an XML specification that facilitates the distribution of soft-ware over the Internet. Using OSD, developers tag the structure of an application and its files. The tags describe each component of the software and its relationship to the other components in the application. The availability of software for download from the Web saves vendors the time, resources and money previously required to create boxed products and ship them to customers.
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