Microsoft officials believe the Web is in its second generation, and the third, which is right around the corner, will feature Extensible Markup Language (XML) as its centerpiece.
XML was a recurring theme for developers at last week's TechEd conference in Dallas, and several Microsoft executives and product managers repeated a new mantra: soon, all of the company's products will be XML-enabled.
Microsoft's developer group vice president, Paul Maritz, said the current second-generation Web focuses on the server and providing applications and data to users.
In the next generation, the Web becomes an "application integ-ration architecture", which fundamentally acts as a gateway for transactions between businesses, according to Maritz.
"XML will revolutionise the usage of the Web to make it a business driver. It's hard to overstate the importance of this standard," Maritz said.
XML will do for transporting data what HTML has done for transporting Web pages, Maritz said. Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM), meanwhile, will provide for the transportation of objects, Maritz said.
Currently, Microsoft's Visual Studio tools suite does not support native XML.
"A lot of third parties are doing design-time controls that can be added to [Microsoft's] Visual Interdev tool to do that kind of stuff," said Tod Nielsen, a vice president in Microsoft's developer group. "Going forward, [XML] is going to be a native part of our tools and our platform, our database, for everything Microsoft does."
"The developers I talk to, they get [XML], they understand it," Nielsen said. "It's simple, and it's a straightforward way for them to communicate server-to-server or application-to-server.
In other developments, Maritz restated plans to release the company's Windows 2000 operating system by the end of this year.