Cold fusion helps out Web developers

Web developers are a pragmatic bunch. They have to be - the whole Internet is held together by the virtual equivalents of baling wire and spit. Faced with an array of clients, servers, transports, and protocols, Web developers often solve design problems with whatever tool is handy and gets the job done quickly.

That's why Perl, the scripting language used in CGI programs throughout the Web, is the duct tape of the Internet. Perl is cheap, handy in a pinch, and it's easy to find computer graduates who know how to use it.

Less widespread, but almost as handy as Perl, is Allaire's Cold Fusion. Cold Fusion is a Web application server that interprets Cold Fusion tags embedded within HTML files and executes specific actions programmed by these tags.

Many developers swear by Cold Fusion because it doesn't cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, its code is easy to learn and to read, and it works. Cold Fusion lacks the high-end object-oriented features of a true programming language, but its integration with HTML makes it ideally suited for the Web.

Now the developers of Cold Fusion are proposing a new kind of baling wire that, they believe, will appeal to the pragmatic Web developers who are their core customers.

Allaire's Jeremy Allaire (who co-founded the company with his brother J.J.) is championing WDDX, which is short for Web Distributed Data Exchange.

Technically speaking, WDDX is an Extensible Markup Language (XML) vocabulary defined by a Document Type Definition (DTD) that Allaire has posted on its site. WDDX provides a data format that Jeremy Allaire hopes will become the standard for data exchanges on the Web. (For more details, see dataSimply stated, WDDX is the epoxy that programmers can use to glue data from different platforms together on the Web.

If I'm programming in JavaScript and you're using Cold Fusion, we can use WDDX translators on each platform to exchange data. My JavaScript data is converted to WDDX, transmitted to your application, and then translated into Cold Fusion-friendly data formats. Each of us can continue to work with the data formats we know without worrying about WDDX, since it's just used for translating and transporting the information.