I have never been a big fan of using XML as a language for human interaction. I always felt that XML is too noisy for human comprehension and never a pleasing sight for your eyes. In an earlier post I had pitched in with the idea of using Lisp s-expressions as executable XML instead of the plethora of angle brackets polluting your comprehension power. XML is meant for machine interpretation, the hierarchical processing of XML documents gives you the raw power when you are programming for the machine. But, after all, Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute (from SICP).
With the emergence of the modern stream of scripting languages, XML is definitely taking a backseat in handling issues like software builds and configuration management. People are no longer amused with the XML hell of Maven and have been desperately looking for alternatives. Buildr, a drop-in replacement for Maven uses Ruby (inspired by Rake), SCons uses Python scripts, Groovy has also been used in the configuration space for Jini-based ComputeCycles project (via Artima). XML has also started looking like just yet another option for configuring your beans in the Spring community. We are just spoilt with other options of configuration - Spring JavaConfig uses Java configuration, Springy does it with JRuby, Groovy SpringBuilder does it with Groovy.
Configuration and builds of systems are nontrivial activities and need a mix of both declarative and procedural programming. Using XML as the brute force approach towards this has resulted in complex hierarchical structures, too complex for human comprehension. A perfect example in hand is Maven which attempts to do too many things with XML. The result is extremely complex XML hell much to the anguish of developers and build managers. A big build system configured using Maven becomes a maintenance nightmare in no time.
People are getting increasingly used to the comforts of DSLs and configurations of large systems have never been too trivial an artifact. Hence it is logical that we would like to have something which provides a cool humane interface. And XML is definitely not one of them ..