June 12, 2002 12:35 PM PDT

Web group pushes XML testing

Eager to get Web services developers to conform to one of its key recommendations, the Web's leading standards body has released a set of tests for XML processors.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Wednesday launched the XML Conformance Test Suite. Offered free of charge, the suite consists of 2000 files, each of which tests for a specific feature or combination of features in the second edition of the W3C's published XML 1.0 recommendation.

XML, short for Extensible Markup Language, is a format that's been gaining cachet as a way to simplify data exchanges between disparate businesses and software programs. It lets programmers define types of data--a product ID number, for instance--so that computer programs can instantly recognize the information being transferred and handle it properly.

The federal government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) first published in 1999 an XML test suite that served as a foundation for the present W3C edition. Additional contributions come from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), an XML standards organization, which formerly hosted the NIST suite.

Part of the goal for the standards organizations in promulgating the tests is to ensure interoperability between XML processors. The way it is now, some XML applications developed to exchange data with each other may run into compatibility glitches.

That, warned the W3C, could spell trouble for the much-hyped set of technologies known as Web services, which are intended to add up to a way for companies to communicate and conduct business online through any device that has Internet access, from cellular phones to desktop computers.

"The foundation of Web services as we've heard it discussed has to do with standards conformance, and it starts with XML," said W3C representative Janet Daly. "If applications don't conform to XML, they won't be able to conform to the range of other specifications built on top. The test suite gives developers--both big vendors and independent developers--a way to test their work."

The XML suite is one of several test suites (which check applications for compliance) and validators (which check documents) offered by the W3C under the auspices of its Quality Assurance Activity.

Validators include those for cascading style sheets (CSS), the HTML, XHTML and MathML specifications, the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) Project, the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and XML Schema.

Test suites cover the CSS1, CSS3 and CSS Mobile specifications, the Document Object Model (DOM) Level 1, Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) 1.1, the MathML 2 specification, RDF, Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language variants SMIL 2 and SMIL Animation, the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) 1.2, the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format, XML Schema and the Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL).

 

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