A lot of people in the mailing industry are asking the same question recently: which file format should I choose? The answer is really quite simple. Both! We all know by now that a Mail.dat file is quite robust and contains large amounts of valuable mailing information. This is very beneficial, except when you only need portions of the information that resides in the file. In these cases, it can be time consuming and a strain on transmission and storage resources to send entire Mail.dat files back and forth between parties in the mailing supply chain. (We are not including the USPS® at this point. More on them later.) This is when Mail.XML comes in handy. When a full Mail.dat file is not necessary, you can use Mail.XML to transmit only the information that is being updated, modified or queried.
Breaking this down in English a bit more to help understand the differences between Mail.dat and Mail.XML, one can think of Mail.dat being the “encyclopedia” of a given mailing. Then, think of Mail.XML as the “telegram” that you send to someone describing a portion of the encyclopedia. If your recipient only needs a small segment of information, it is much easier (for both of you!) to send them a short telegram than to send them the entire encyclopedia. That is essentially how Mail.XML works in relationship to Mail.dat. Mailers using Mail.dat can continue to use it as a database, but use Mail.XML for communication, automation or business-to-business processing and get answers in near-real-time from other parties.
Mail.XML is designed to automate business processes and communication by reducing manual data entry labor, enable quick near real-time communication between business parties, increase efficiency and reduce costs. One of the ways Mail.XML will be used in the future is conducting electronic transactions with the USPS. For example, if you use PostalOne!® to transact business with the USPS, you will first upload a Mail.dat file for the mailing as a “planned” mailing. Once all the final attributes of the mailing have been determined and all adjustments made to the Mail.dat file, you only need to transmit Mail.XML “telegrams” to the USPS to update your original Mail.dat file. This eliminates the need to re-submit an entire Mail.dat file every time a change is made or a new transaction occurs. It allows you to pay postage, make drop-ship appointments, and a variety of other transactions using much smaller chunks of data.
With the information presented here, it’s now easy for mailers and mail service providers to answer the “Mail.dat or Mail.XML” question. Everyone should be able to conclude that “both” is, indeed, their final answer!