Unspinning the Web: Any reality behind the hype?

January 24, 2001

No matter what anyone says about the collapse of the dot-com economy, brick-and-mortar businesses shouldn't hold a wake just yet. The reality is, the Internet has already changed our core business expectations for everything from getting news

No matter what anyone says about the collapse of the dot-com economy, brick-and-mortar businesses shouldn't hold a wake just yet. The reality is, the Internet has already changed our core business expectations for everything from getting news to looking up movie listings to checking pricing and purchasing the products themselves. It's a great invention (thanks Al), and personally, I wouldn't dream of buying Christmas or birthday gifts any other way.

The Internet has permeated our lives in even more insidious ways, worming its way into our everyday vernacular with concepts such as dot-com, hyperlink, hotsync, and myXXX. And it seems everyone has an opinion on technology these days, sparking furious competition among vendors for the consumer dollar.

Take, for example, the latest, greatest craze surrounding XML, a programming language that promises to make it easier to Internet-enable and manipulate information contained in legacy systems. For a while there, it seemed as if the entire healthcare community was jumping on the XML bandwagon-including HL7 (HNN 10/18/00).

What makes this even more interesting is the notion that XML and Java are incompatible. Microsoft, which can probably be credited with giving this argument more play than it deserves, has been pushing XML in a big way in its dot-Net initiative. Of course, Microsoft's support of XML has nothing to do with the fact that the company is involved in litigation surrounding the use of Java-something to do with making Java "write once, run (only) on Windows."

If you want the straight scoop, do a quick Web search on Java and XML. You'll turn up several sites from respectable industry sources (such as Sun Microsystems) that provide information on programming XML with Java. That definitely belies the notion of complete XML/Java incompatibility.

Here again, as with most things in life, you can't believe everything you hear. Nor can you trust all those debates over which technology is "best." In fact, one of the biggest lingering problems with the Internet is the lack of universal standards. Despite the existence of the World Wide Web Consortium (affectionately dubbed "W3C"), which develops and endorses specifications for Web-native technologies and software like HTML, cascading style sheets, and XML, new Internet capabilities are being developed faster than "standards" can be implemented into the browsers that enable us to view and use all this cool stuff. Yet the latest version of cascading style sheets still doesn't work properly on Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer 5.

But don't get too comfortable. The XML vs. Java debate (or lack thereof) is already on the verge of obsolescence. I have it on good authority from our Webmaster that the next "new, new" thing is PHP (a mangled acronym for Hypertext Preprocessor), a server-side HTML embedded scripting language used to create dynamic Web pages that is already included in some Web servers-including open-source pioneer Red Hat Linux.

Questions/comments: dkadams@cmp.com