Is XML Looking at JSON Tail Lights?

September 21, 2011

Extensible Markup Language has a long and distinguished lineage. Think CALS and SGML. We try to pay attention to XML centric search and content processing companies. Examples include the very quiet Dieselpoint and the repositioned Mark Logic Corp.

We have heard anecdotes about some disenchantment with XML, which has been stretched to perform a wide range of content acrobatics. Now it seems that some Twitter features will not support XML. Many older applications rely on XML support for functionality, but Twitter could likely force developers to make updates. In Programmable Web’s article, “Twitter API Ditches XML For Trends: New Features Are JSON-Only,” Twitter’s Jason Costa explained why Twitter is removing XM L:

As well as standardizing the trends URL we are also planning to switch the trends API to JSON only. The reason for this is because the use of XML on the trends API is significantly low and removing support would allow us to free up resources for other developments. Running down the data formats supported by Twitter’s various APIs, there is still plenty of XML support (as well as RSS and Atom), but some of the newer features are JSON-only.”

What’s JSON? The acronym means JavaScript Object Notation. According to, it is:

a lightweight data-interchange format. It is easy for humans to read and write. It is easy for machines to parse and generate. It is based on a subset of the JavaScript Programming Language, Standard ECMA-262 3rd Edition – December 1999. JSON is a text format that is completely language independent but uses conventions that are familiar to programmers of the C-family of languages, including C, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, Perl, Python, and many others. These properties make JSON an ideal data-interchange language.

Will XML have a future at Twitter? Right now it appears that Twitter streaming is already JSON-only. This move by Twitter may presage an important shift in the Web from XML to JSON.

XML is a complex beastie and publishing companies have embraced XML because it makes slicing and dicing of content easier. But an investment is required to make XML deliver. Chopping out complexity may put pressure on vendors who emphasize the XML ingredients in their enterprise solutions.

If light weight JSON gains traction, some disruptions may be triggered in a forceful way.

Andrea Hayden, September 22, 2011

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