Z39.50 versus XML

Stan Blum sblum at CALACADEMY.ORG
Tue Mar 13 11:04:24 CST 2001

At 10:11 AM 3/13/01 -0500, Richard Zander wrote:
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Jim Croft" <jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU>
>Sent: Monday, March 12, 2001 7:17 AM
>Subject: Re: a grandiose but (hopefully) practical idea
> > I don't like Zbig, not because the idea is flawed, but because it is based
> > on Z39.50, and none of my applications can use it...  now, if they were to
> > go down the XML route, we could upgrade browsers and start to party...
>A few details about how databases might be implemented in XML  to do much
>the same as Zbig would be real interesting, Jim. Could you give us a
>reference or a hint?

To clarify this a bit, XML and Z39.50 are not comparable standards.  Z39.50
can transport data in XML format, and actually does in the current ZBIG /
Species Analyst network.  What would make Jim Croft happier, I suspect, is
to implement ZBIG and similar systems using HTTP, the standard protocol
underlying the Web.  I'm fairly certain the ZBIG / Species Analyst work is
heading that direction, AND I believe the switch will be relatively
transparent.  In other words, a user won't see any difference between data
contributed via Z39.50 versus HTTP.  From the provider's prospective, it
will be a relatively simple matter of installing new software, entering the
correct parameters into a configuration file, and re-registering themselves
with the portal.  (There may be differences in speed, but that remains to
be seen.)

Also of note: the "Red Mundial de Informacion sobre Biodivesidad" (REMIB)
network (from CONABIO) uses HTTP but a simpler delimited file format; and
the incipient "European Natural History Specimen Information Network"
(ENHSIN) uses HTTP and XML.

Species Analyst (ZBIG): http://habanero.nhm.ukans.edu/TSA/
REMIB:  http://www.conabio.gob.mx/remib/remib.html
ENHSIN: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/science/rco/enhsin/

Bottom line:  don't let changes in protocol deter you -- technology will
always be in a state of flux.  We need to make (and keep) data capture and
"data publication" among the top priorities in systematics.


Stanley D. Blum, Ph.D.
Research Information Manager
California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
Office: 415-750-7032
Fax:    415-750-7186

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