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Protesting the angle bracket tax

At the recent JavaOne conference in San Francisco, we saw a demonstration of how to exchange information between Sun Microsystems' Project Metro Web services stack with a Microsoft .Net stack. What amazed us was the sheer amount of XML markup required for the job, mostly to support a few simple transactions, such as authentication. There were pages and pages of the stuff.

In a much-discussed blog post, developer Jeff Atwood has dubbed this verbosity "angle bracket tax."

"I spend a disproportionate amount of my time wading through an endless sea of angle brackets and verbose tags desperately searching for the vaguest hint of actual information. It feels wrong," he writes.

True, XML wasn't meant to be read by humans. And the exhaustive contextualization it fosters allows information to be used across different systems with comparatively little preparation.

But such verbosity also takes up an awful lot of bandwidth and storage space, especially in cases that don't offer a clear-cut advantage to marking up the content. Atwood advises that before slipping all your content in-between angle brackets, consider using more frugal alternatives such as YAML (short for "YAML ain't Another Markup Language") and JSON (short for JavaScript Object Notation).

Posted by Joab Jackson on Jun 11, 2008 at 9:39 AM


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