Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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What I make

a conference management web application

XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

The changing face of XML

I've just finished the mammoth task of allotting reviewers to presentation proposals for XML Europe 2004. It's the third year that I've chaired this conference, and each year the submissions provide an interesting snapshot of the XML zeitgeist.

So what's new this year?

  • Government use of XML continues to rise. National and local governance provides exactly the sort of problems that XML's interoperability benefits address. I suspect additionally that the economic downturn may be at play here: government work provides reliable income for consultants, whereas private organisations may be cutting back.
  • A renewed interest in the core of XML. Over the last few years the W3C monopolised the core development of XML (not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe it went on too long). They've pulled back from this now, and there's lots of life and ideas around core technologies now the whole show isn't quite so politicised.
  • The coming of age of ebXML. Ignored by many players, ebXML seems to be showing promise now. We're getting talks based on implementations, not just on specifications.
  • The coming of age of topic maps. Long the subject of controversy and head-scratching, topic maps technology is coming out of the specification stage and into practical implementations. In the XML world there is a divide between topic maps and RDF, though it is much less contentious than it used to be. We hope to be hosting a workshop at XML Europe in which these issues can be addressed.

What's not so hot this year?

  • Graphics. For some reason, despite the hoardes of publishing types that come to XML Europe, graphics has always remained somewhat on the margin of the conference. Now the SVG Open conference exists, perhaps this drags presentations away, but I don't think it's the only reason. The lack of graphics-focused presentations is disappointing.
  • Databases. Though there's a reasonable amount of interest in the W3C XML Query language, there's not much to say about XML and databases. It doesn't seem to me that the integration of XML with relational databases has taken off in the way we once thought it might.

All in all, I've been impressed with the quality of the submissions. We've had much fewer proposals that need to be weeded out because they're marketing fluff. The proposals related to web services also seem to be improving in their quality: less of the ridiculous vision thing and a bit more about problem-solving.

That's not it for proposals, however. We have a late-breaking news and product presentation deadline of 12 March. I'll be looking to drum up trade for these presentation slots over the next six weeks. In particular, if you're doing new work in graphics- or weblog-related fields, please consider a submission.

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