In the bad old days of web 1.7ish, the cool thing to do for dynamic web applications was to generate HTML snippets on the server-side, pull them into your app using XMLHTTPRequest, and shove them bodily into a DIV on the page somewhere. “generating DOMs is hard” was the excuse, “the server already has a nice templating language”, etc, etc. And this was Good.

Nowadays, of course, this is Evil. Pulling HTML across the wire? It’s inefficient! Even worse, we want to send XHTML to the client, because it’s cool, but then you can’t treat your HTML like a string, you really do have to mess with DOMs. Fortunately, cute tools like MochiKit make it really easy to create DOM nodes, and provide really nice tools for making ajax requests. We see the rise of JSON – serializing your raw data on the server into a JavaScript-evaluatable string and sending that across the network, then building the DOM on the client side based on that data. And this is Good.

Soon, I expect, people will run up against annoyances in JSON. For instance, I bet there are lurking character set issues. It’s also not very portable – if I go to all the trouble of writing and exposing interesting functions of my web application in machine-readable ways, I’d like to be able to access this data using things other than javascript. Sure, there are modules like JSON that will both create and parse these things, but throwing actual XML around seems much neater to me.

We have a strange mix of XML and JSON APIs at the moment, some toolkits even making it easy to ask for either. But I consider XML far superior for this sort of thing, if only because the character set issues (my personal bugbear) are properly solved with XML. It’s disadvantage is that the JavaScript tools for dealing with the DOM are very annoying, but when we have something like XML::Simple or xmltramp for JS, and reading incoming XML is almost as easy as reading JSON, we can get rid of it and use nice sensible RPC mechanisms. JSB is a lovely example of this, for instance. And this will be Good.