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What is the Difference Between HTML and XML

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13th Jan, 2022
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What is the Difference Between HTML and XML

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, and XML is the acronym for Extensible Markup Language. Both HTML and XML are used to create web applications and web pages. However, the two markup languages have their differences and distinct purposes. For instance, the task of HTML is to display data on a web page, make it more interactive, and focus on how the data looks. On the other hand, XML has nothing to do with the appearance of data but how it is transported and saved.

This detailed guide on HTML vs XML will walk you through the meaning, uses, and differences between HTML and XML.

What is HTML?

HTML or Hypertext Markup Language helps users create and design web content and apply formatting and layout to a text document. It is designed to display data and describe the structure of a web page, and HTML achieves this through a variety of tags and attributes that define the structure and layout of the web document. 

An HTML document has the extension .html or .htm. A website typically includes thousands of HTML files in various directories. When a user visits a webpage, its server sends the HTML files to the user’s browser. Subsequently, the browser reads the HTML and displays it. However, not all web applications use static HTML. Some generate the HTML in response to definite actions on their server.

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HTML elements are the building blocks of a webpage that developers use to structure a webpage into headings, sections, and other content blocks. Most HTML elements have a start tag and an end tag with content in between. The words between the angle brackets “< >” are the tags and separate standard text from the HTML code. The tags are displayed on web pages in images, links, diagrams, tables, etc. 

Here’s an example of HTML:


What is HTML used for?

Now that we have a fundamental idea of what and HTML is and how it works, here’s a quick list of what HTML is used for:

  • Structuring web pages: Using HTML tags and elements, developers can define paragraphs, headings, and other webpage content.
  • Embedding images and videos: HTML allows users to embed images into a webpage and adjust their position, width, and height. HTML attributes also come in handy for adjusting video controls, thumbnails, autoplay, timestamps, and more.
  • Interacting with native APIs: Not just the web browser, HTML can also interact with the operating system to facilitate features like dragging files and uploading them to a webpage.
  • Game development: With the help of JavaScript and CSS, HTML can be used to build video games in the browser.

What is XML?

XML or Extensible Markup Language is a markup language designed to store and transfer data. It is also used to create web pages and web applications, but unlike HTML, the focus of XML is not on displaying data. Defined by a set of rules, XML allows users to encode documents in a format readable by both humans and machines. 

Like HTML, XML uses tags to define a document’s structure and how it should be stored and transported. XML is often used as the basis for several other document formats such as the following:

  • The document structure in MS Office 2007 and later versions are based on XML. The ‘X’ in .DOCX, .PPTX and .XLSX files stands for XML.
  • Microsoft.NET uses XML for its configuration files.

XML is written in textual data format and is extensively used for representing arbitrary data structures like those used in web services. The design of XML focuses on generality, simplicity, and usability across the internet. XML offers a standard and structured format to store data and share it between applications. Without this standard format, custom codes would have to be written to parse the data for each application accessing it, and thus, each new dataset would have required a custom code.

Here’s an example of XML:


What is XML used for?

Now, let’s take a brief look at the different uses of XML:

1. Transferring data

XML is commonly used for creating APIs and for transferring data in a structure that can be parsed by desktop apps, web apps, mobile apps, and various other applications.

2. Web searching

Search engines today use HTML and XML tags to make searches more accurate.

3. Storing configuration data

XML stores the data used for application configuration. For example, in MS Excel, XML stores all the spreadsheet information, including column definitions, the format of the fields, and more.

4. Creating layouts

XML is used to create layouts in Android mobile applications. These layouts determine how data should be displayed on the screen of the mobile device.

HTML vs XML: What’s the difference?

There are different parameters to illustrate the difference between HTML and XML. So, let’s take a look at the differences between the two markup languages based on the following parameters:

1. Purpose

The primary purpose of HTML is to present or display the data. In contrast, XML is used to store and transfer the data.

2. Tags

HTML has pre-defined tags that users can use while creating web pages. On the other hand, XML allows users to create tags in any language of their choice and as per their needs.

3. End tags

In HTML, every tag requires a closing or ending tab. However, in XML, some tags like <img>, <hr>, <br>, etc. do not have a closing tab.

4. Casing

HTML is case-insensitive and XML is case-sensitive.

5. White spaces

HTML does not allow the use of white spaces, but XML does.

6. Formatting decision

In HTML, data is directly mapped with the application. On the contrary, data mapping to the application is not direct in XML and requires working on it.

7. Nesting

Inaccuracy in nesting does not cause any significant error in HTML. But in XML, proper nesting is essential to evade potential errors.

8. Errors

While minor errors get ignored in HTML, errors in XML disrupt data storage and transfer and must be immediately corrected.

9. JavaScript integration

JavaScript code can be parsed into the HTML document without any additional application. But XML needs DOM (Document Object Model) to parse JavaScript codes and mapping.

10. Document size

Due to brief syntax and formatted text, the size of HTML documents is relatively small. On the contrary, the size of XML documents is comparatively large since the formatting approach and codes are lengthy.

11. Object support

HTML has native object support. But XML requires objects to be expressed using attributes.

12. Learning curve

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HTML has a pretty much smooth learning curve since it involves no other technologies. XML, in contrast, is relatively difficult because it demands learning other technologies such as XPath, XML DOM, etc., required for parsing and formatting data in XML documents.

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Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1 Can HTML and XML work together?

Yes, HTML and XML can work together. While HTML looks after data display and presentation, XML stores and transports the data and information.

2What are the advantages of HTML over XML?

One of the most significant benefits of HTML over XML is that using HTML, users can modify the appearance and presentation of data in a webpage which makes it more interactive. On the contrary, XML solely focuses on the storage and exchange of information.

3What is the advantage of XML over HTML?

XML only deals with the storage and transfer of data without managing the way the output is presented. Hence, it is easier to use than HTML, which has complex coding since its primary purpose is to look after the presentation of data.

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