Since many of the attempts to introduce a universal hydrographic data format have failed or have been only partially successful, a totally different approach is required. Our solution is the Hydrographic Universal Data Description Language (Huddl), a descriptive XML-based language that permits the creation of a standardized description of (past, present, and future) data formats. Huddler represents an implementation of one of the many advantages of having such format descriptions: a compiler that automatically creates drivers for data access and manipulation.
The key point of the Huddl approach is the idea of describing the existing formats as they are rather than define another chimeric format able to encapsulate the amount of information present in all the existing data formats (with all the related semantic issues in case a conversion is attempted).
Huddl also represents a powerful solution for archiving data along with their structural description, as well as for cataloguing existing format specifications and their version control.
A simple metadata link to an online repository of Huddl Format Descriptions (HFD) represents a robust way to uniquely identify the data organization based on a properly described version release of a format. The HFD is a machine-readable description of the content of a data format that can be used in multiple ways: from automatic generation of data drivers to validation of the content of survey lines claiming to be consistent with a particular format release; from recovery of partial information from corrupted data to storage and reference of the description of how data are organized in a given data format, as well as incremental updates of data format specifications. Since HFDs are XML files, they can also be uniformly and consistently converted to produce documentation in different formats (e.g., HTML).