Interchange Format

Glossary Term Definition: 

Interchange formats are file formats that can be used to exchange data between hardware platforms and software applications, regardless of platform or application configuration. A useful example can be found in modern printers: files sent to the printer are exported in a format that all printers can read; this format constitutes an interchange format.

Interchange formats facilitate interoperability in two ways:

  1. They serialize data for transfer over a network
  2. They allow developers to design hardware and software to interact with the interchange format, as opposed to interacting directly with other hardware and software platforms. This cuts down on the need for developers to future-proof their products and allows data available in an interchange format to remain live and viable on older hardware and software platforms.

From a technical perspective, an interchange format is a document written in a specific syntax and structured by a schema.

As web services are used for data exchange, web-accessible data that is formatted and structured for deployment as a web service can be said to be an implementation of an interchange format. Likewise, data that has been conformed to an application-neutral schema or file format constitutes an interchange format.