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The Misguided Silver Bullet: What XML will and will NOT do to help Information Integration

Madnick, Stuart E., "The Misguided Silver Bullet: What XML will and will NOT do to help Information Integration" (October 2001). MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4185-01; CISL Working Paper No. 01-08. Available at SSRN:


    The eXtensible Markup Language (XML) offers many important benefits and improvements over its predecessor, HTML. But, articles have appeared about XML with exaggerated claims of it being a "Rosetta Stone" with "miraculuous ways" to almost automatically provide information integration. These claims are actually being believed by some executives. It is almost surprising that no one has claimed that XML can cure cancer and provide world peace! In reality, XML must face many of the same challenges that plagued Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and database integration efforts of the past. To a large extent, there are both managerial and technical challenges - much related to the difficulties of attaining universally accepted semantically-rich standards. In this paper, these challenges will be discussed with specific emphasis on the issue of dealing with a real-world with multiple "contexts." Some promising research directions, some overlapping with the "semantic web" effort, will be presented.
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