Around 2000, many people realized that XML technology could be a great way to finally create a successful interchange format for music notation and digital sheet music applications. In the past, adoption of music notation interchange formats had suffered from both technical and social problems. Previous efforts like SMDL and NIFF never met their goals of becoming a standard music notation interchange format, even with the ISO 10743 seal of approval for SMDL.
The major technical problem was to design a format that was complete enough for both commercial and academic use, while usable enough to be approachable for developers. The major social problem was how to get the format adopted by the market leaders in music notation editing, both of whom were inclined to keep to their proprietary formats. MusicXML overcame these technical and social problems to become the first successful interchange standard designed for music notation applications. As of December 2006, MusicXML works with over 60 music applications, including all the market leaders for music notation editing and scanning. None of the other XML formats for music notation interchange have been adopted by applications outside of their own organizations.
Other application areas have similar adoption challenges, especially where market leaders might view a standard XML format as weakening a proprietary hold on customers. Examining how MusicXML overcame these technical and social barriers to become the de facto interchange standard for digital sheet music applications reveals some lessons that can be applied to other XML-based interchange formats: