Enter eXtensible Markup Language or XML. XML data is stored in plain text. It’s both human and machine-readable and is hardware-independent, making XML data very portable. Using an XML API, you can easily share XML data across different applications, browsers, or operating systems.
The XML API receives data from a database, then converts it into XML format to be sent to another application that accepts XML inputs. This effectively allows you to treat your database as if it were structured in XML.
When should you use XML APIs?
Let’s explore some scenarios where you’ll want to use XML APIs instead of the “raw” information from the database, and why XML APIs are beneficial in these cases.
1. Sharing Data Between Systems
XML APIs are a good option when you need to share data between systems. XML data can be used on any application as nearly every programming language has an XML parser.
By using XML to exchange data, you can also use tools like Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT) and XML Schema Definition (XSD) to further process data. These tools come bundled with XML, so you don’t need to rely on other third-party software.
2. Standardizing the Data Schema
If you use an XML API when creating an application that receives data from external sources, you can construct a common schema that defines how the data should be structured. This way, those sending the data only need to validate their data against the defined schema before sending it. This allows you to easily consume data within the application, as you always know how it’s structured.
3. Data Storage
You may choose to use an XML API over a database if the application data will be viewed in different formats or on different devices. For instance, PDF files, Word documents, HTML files, CSV files, and RTF files can be stored as XML. They can then be parsed and formatted by an application that renders the content in its original format.
4. Converting Database Tables to HTML
With an XML API, you can convert database tables to HTML pages easily. You can use the XSLT stylesheet to generate the HTML pages from a table represented as an Xml file. With XSLT, you can also generate other file formats, like text files.