Home > Articles > Web Services > XML

Seven Steps to XML Mastery: About This Series

Frank Coyle leads you to a complete understanding of exactly what you need to know to build and implement your own sophisticated XML solutions, whether for your personal web site or an enterprise-level organization. This introduction to the series briefly describes the relationships among the various technologies you’ll learn as you travel the seven steps to XML mastery.
After reading this introduction, you can move on to the individual steps in Frank Coyle's series:
Like this article? We recommend


It’s been just about eight years now since XML arrived on the scene in the form of a W3C recommendation outlining the rules for writing one’s own tag-based language. Before XML there was SGML, another tag description language but considered too hefty to jumpstart the new breed of data-centric apps just beginning to emerge from the Web.

Now of course, XML is ubiquitous. XML vocabularies have been defined for everything from Human Resources data to RSS feeds and SOAP envelopes. The main reason for XML’s success is its simplicity, fostering numerous XML vocabularies and a broad range of support tools and associated specs, which have enabled developers to leverage XML for a wide variety of tasks.

Figure 1 illustrates how XML sits at the core of a family of related technologies contributing to XML’s power and range of applications. Trying to get a handle on all these technologies can be tricky, as I’ve learned over the past few years giving seminars and designing undergraduate and graduate classes in XML at SMU in Dallas. One thing I’ve learned is that, while technical mastery of the details of the XML specification is useful on a syntactic level, real learning comes from trying to use XML to solve problems. In trying to build XML solutions, you come to see how XML’s simplicity and support systems make it easy for a developer to turn out sophisticated apps with much less heartache and pain than with traditional development.

Figure 1

Figure 1 XML and the family of XML technologies.

In trying to convey XML’s broad capabilities, I’ve found it useful to approach the study of XML and its family of technologies by structuring things around a seven-step program.

  1. Read before you write. Just like kids learn to read before they can write, we’ll jump into our study of XML syntax and structure, learning to read by deconstructing some current XML vocabularies.

    First, we’ll look at the structure of Rich Site Summary (RSS) documents and how RSS magic works. Then we’ll take a look at how Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) defines a lean XML format for drawing complex graphics. As we examine these XML vocabularies, we’ll look at how they use elements and attributes, as well as some of the other components you can add to an XML document, such as processing instructions and CDATA chunks. With an ability to read XML, you’re ready to move on to more ambitious tasks.

  2. Display for the Web. With some foundational XML technology under your belt, you’ll be ready to go to work writing some XML and getting things set up for web display. To do this, we’ll set you up as a consultant for a hot new startup company that’s looking to take the Web by storm. You’ll be working for the up-and-coming ZwiftBooks Corp, where you’ll jump in to create some XML vocabularies and work with a web design team to establish the company’s web presence.

    The trick here will be to bring company XML data in line with the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and XHTML of the design team. Once an interface has been defined between the development and web team, the web team can work their design magic without worrying about stepping on the data. We’ll walk thru the steps involved in transforming company XML data into a form suitable for the Web.

  3. Transform with XSLT. The key to XML manipulation is XSLT, a powerful XML transformation technology that processes XML input and can generate any kind of output. In this step, we’ll set things up so that XSLT does some of the heavy lifting on the detail work necessary to generate our company web pages automatically. As we’ll see, XSLT is a key technology for transforming XML into a form suitable for web display, such as XHTML. Then you learn how to put all this in play by leveraging the power of scripting languages to execute our XSLT transforms painlessly, creating a truly dynamic web site for ZwiftBooks Corp.
  4. Apply parsing power. In step 4, we’ll take a look at some of the different parser technologies that have sprung up to help deal with XML at a programming level. For a company like ZwiftBooks, interested in building a corporate infrastructure around XML, it’s crucial that we understand programming options for reading and writing XML.

    In this step, we’ll look at the two major parsing models, SAX and DOM, and then take a peek at how the mobile world is gearing up to handle the expected increasing volume of XML traffic, using a new pull parsing approach called StAX.

  5. Add web services. Before XML, a company looking to set up a distributed network needed to decide on both a data format and a network infrastructure for moving its data around. Now, XML vocabularies such as SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI enable a new web services model by delivering XML over widely used and established web protocols such as HTTP.

    In this step, we’ll look at XML from the standpoint of both consumers and providers of web services. We’ll explore how SOAP can be used to structure XML messages, how WSDL is used to specify the messaging to request a service, and how UDDI enables service lookup from repositories. Along the way, we’ll also look at how companies like Amazon.com are making use of Representational State Transfer (REST) as an alternative to their SOAP interfaces.

  6. Employ the semantic web. Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision for the Web included a framework not just for linking pages to each other but to provide a semantic underpinning to web page content, so that software agents were free to roam from page to page carrying out sophisticated tasks for users.

    In this step, we’ll consider how this vision is taking shape in the form of several semantic web initiatives. Your assignment will be to use semantic web technologies such as RDF and OWL to create new categories of web services for your users.

  7. Ensure XML security. The expanding role of XML in network traffic means looking at options for keeping that data secure. Because XML often travels along a path with multiple players adding and transforming data, keeping XML secure is more complex than just encrypting it, because we often want to encrypt or sign only part of the XML. In this step, I’ll show you how XML encryption can help to secure your company data using encryption and digital signatures.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020