Sunday, 13 January 2013

XML and Facebook

XML stands for 'extensible markup language', and allows the passing of information including data and content in a variety of ways. XML takes a simplistic approach to structure, meaning that resulting files are easy to understand, move and translate into other environments. XML marks sections of a document with a descriptive label. These labels are extensible (not limited to a fixed set) and allow XML to break the document down into the marked sections that a machine (or developer) can read. This therefore allows the platform to act independently of software, as the data is able to be moved through software upgrades without risking incompatibility- something that is incredibly important in the case of sites like Facebook, as if the abundance of data were to be inaccessible due to incompatibility with new software, large issues would arise.

Many applications, programmes, sites and resources use XML. An example of a site that uses XML is Facebook. An open platform, Facebook allows 3rd party developers to add to the site. In this instance, the use of XML allows the creation of an interactive user interface, which is one of the main attractions of Facebook. This level of interaction allows the user to customise and adapt those pages to his or her specification, within certain limits. This results in the creation of an online presence reflecting- (in most cases, that is!) the user through statuses, profile pages, comments and likes.

Benefits of XML also comes through in the 'security' settings on Facebook. XML allows data to be stored once, but allows the user to render this content for different viewers- in the case of Facebook: Public, Friends, Only Me or Custom. This is done based on style sheet processing using an extensible style language (XSL) processor. As a result of this, different people are given different information, even though the 'base' of the information remains the same. XML therefore allows the freedom to repurpose and reuse data in multiple situations, rather than repeatedly and painstakingly recreating it.

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