It is a common understanding that “the Web changes everything”, and this applies to an increasing number of computer applications. In the last years, we also understood that “XML is the means” for this change to take effect, as XML has progressively become the basis on which Web applications are built. This corollary was the claim of , published four years ago, in which XML was pointed out as a prominent and promising research direction for the database community.
Indeed, among the many promises that followed the advent of XML, some have been fulfilled, some are still at the stage of promise. After four years, one of the authors was asked to “redo” the same exercise, reconsidering the challenges posed to the database community and making another assessment of the area checking whether the expectations and challenges of the year 2000 have been met in 2004. This paper compares the past and present status of several XML-related research activities, examining the “next steps” that should lead to further integration of XML with database technology in terms of language and system requirements.