Future requirements for a broadband multimedia network are discussed and a vision of the future network is presented. Three key needs are identified; rapid introduction of new services, dynamic customisation of services by clients, and minimal management overhead. Application layer active networking, perhaps the most pragmatic and immediately realisable active network proposal, is a potential solution to all three. Combining eXtensible Markup Language and Application Layer Active Networking yields strong benefits for networked services. A Wide range of applications can be developed based on the flexibility of XML and the richness of expression afforded by the metadata. A system of network intermediaries based on caches, which are also active and driven by XML metadata statements, is described.