XML developer shoots for stars

Though he’s never been to space, Roberto Drassinower says he’s beginning to feel like one of those early U.S. test rocket pilots.

“There’s the rocket. You have fuel in it, you’ve powered it all up and the countdown is going. So what’s the thing that causes you to be nervous?,” he asked rhetorically. “It’s the sheer acceleration factor.”

While it’s unlikely that Drassinower and his peers who work in the emerging and much talked-about Extensible Markup Language (XML) industry will ever be the subjects of a modern-day The Right Stuff, the comparison isn’t entirely unwarranted.

Drassinower, president and CEO of Toronto-based SoftQuad Software Inc., a privately-held Web software company and one of leading lights in the emerging XML market, was at the helm when his company went to market with the first mainstream XML authoring tool, XMetaL.

Indeed, as Drassinower likes to point out, Softquad has always been something of a pioneer; the company was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a body made up of Internet vendors and experts that first drafted the XML spec (and its predecessor, SGML), as well as the Internet Engineering Task Force.

As a set of protocols used for creating tags, XML goes beyond HTML by actually describing information in a way that can be easily read and understood among disparate computer systems – and people.

Though there should be a sign over every IS professional’s door that reads “Beware of hype” there is evidence that XML is more than just a passing fancy.

About 100 companies, including Intel, SAP, 3Com, Hewlett-Packard and Federal Express, are corporate members of the RosettaNet consortium, which is working to complete a full set of XML-based business documents and processes early this year.