Directory Service Markup Language

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What Does Directory Service Markup Language Mean?

Directory services markup language (DSML) is a proposed set of rules for using extensible markup language (XML) to define the data content and structure of a directory and maintain it on distributed directories. It permits XML-based enterprise applications to leverage resource information from directories in a native environment and serves as a common ground for XML-based applications. This permits XML and directories to work together, enabling applications to use directories efficiently.


DSML plays an important role in customer service and supply chain applications, which rely on a customized presentation of data.

Techopedia Explains Directory Service Markup Language

DSML was introduced in 1999 by Bowstreet and provides developers with a simple and convenient way to implement XML-based applications widely on the Internet.DSML’s initial supporters were AOL-Netscape, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Novell, Microsoft and IBM.

DSML permits the use of XML syntax and tools to access directories within XML programs. The document content description defines the DSML.

DSML allows developers to work with multiple dissimilar directories and permits them to access Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)-enabled directories without writing an LDAP interface.

A DSML transaction includes the following steps:

  • An XML application formats a query in DSML.
  • The query is transported across an HTTP network and is received by a DSML service.
  • The query is translated into LDAP; the data is retrieved from the directory and passed back to the DSML service.
  • Data is formatted in DSML and sent back across the HTTP network to the application.

DSML documents describe directory entries and directory schemas. Each directory entry has a unique name called a distinguished name and property value pairs called directory attributes. All directory entries are also members of object classes. The object classes constrain directory attributes made by an entry and are described in the directory schema. This schema is included either in the same DSML document or a separate document. Metadata information and XML tags define directory schemas. Data and schema information requested by XML applications from directories is consolidated into a single document. DSML is installed on current directories by installing extensions.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.