As this post from Elliot Kimber reminded me, it was 10 years ago (!!) that XML was officially born with the publication of the recommendation on February 10, 1998.
Unlike Elliot, who was in the middle of the standards process, I was very much a user of XML in 1997-1998. I was working at PC World Online and we had just started to really think about how to model the articles for a multi-channel delivery process. Getting them from Quark to the website was hard enough, but with the start of online syndication there were requests for simple HTML, ASCII text and for who knows what.
As we sat around in the fall of 1997 trying to come up with a plan, the idea of tags that we could control and name emerged as a model that would let us get to almost any other format. Pretty soon we were learning all about SGML and the soon to be created XML.
Things moved fast back then, and by February of 1998 we were already right in the middle of development of our newly designed XML publishing system featuring an Oracle storage system with XML in a BLOB and key fields as columns (called partial decomposition), TCL script (!!) running on the first version of Vignette and some very basic XML tools that looked a bit like XSLT developed for us by Vignette.
Somehow we put the new system on place and ran our first issue on it in April of 1998 - that's 5 months from idea to production! (If you want to know more about that project see Just One Question for Matt Turner and this paper I gave at XML 1998).
I think of this project as real proof that the principles of XML and its simplicity compared to SGML really did enable the technology to make that huge leap from a niche idea to mainstream content model.
For me the most exciting part of the story is just beginning. As I often say, 'Oh how we wish we had XQuery back then' and its true. We were trying to program and transform XML and had to use so many layers of code (even TCL) and a horrible data model.
XQuery lets you do all that same work in one application layer directly against the native XML content. Its no wonder that XML and content applications are seeing a huge resurgence now that XML (born in 1998) has its match in XQuery (born in 2007).
Happy Anniversary XML!