Tuesday, July 30, 2002

XML is a destabilizing technology, and content authoring is an excellent example. Nobody has yet figured out the magic formula that will encourage content authors to broadly adopt XML in the content creation process. I think this is because XML gives us a completely new idea of what "content" is. What does it mean when you have a universal standard for describing structured data? It means that the application that originally created the content is irrelevant. It doesn't matter that a document was created in MSWord, or in Excel. What matters is what you, the current user/editor of the document want (and are allowed) to do with the content at that particular moment. What matters is your current task (Do you want to edit? Chart? Annotate? Approve?), the document type (sales report? resume? legal brief?), and your security/authentication information (what are you actually allowed to do?). In a word, the context is what matters. We're so used to sending each other "Word Files" and "PowerPoint Files", we've forgotten that it's us that owns the document, not our software. What we need are editors for tasks, not editors for files.