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   What are Web Services for? (Was RE: [xml-dev] lots of WS reading materia

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Thanks Simon, there's a lot of really interesting stuff there. What I found
most interesting was the article by Frank Moss linked from the web log. I
can't get too excited by the REST vs. SOAP debate because there is such an
overwhelming precedent for ugly technical "standards" push by large
companies to win out over much cleaner and more sensible alternatives.
Paul's article is totally convincing, but at the end of the day this stuff
*will* be encapsulated in toolkits so it probably won't make that much
difference. It seems hideously illogical to take the SOAP infrastructure and
encapsulate it under URIs using an additional layer (one of the comments to
Paul's article points to an example of this), but that's what will probably
end up happening.

Anyway, Moss's article points to a much more fundamental point: why bother
with all the web services stuff in the first place? If it's just a way to
replace one kind of API with another, then the effect is going to be
incremental at best. Certainly not enough to justify the amount of attention
that web services are getting. Having XML interfaces to web pages is a vital
first step, but in itself it doesn't represent any quantum leap forward.

I constantly find myself wanting to build little custom applications that
consume web data and do something useful with it. For example, consider the
process by which I decide what movies to see. First I go to the local film
listings (www.dokina.cz) and check out what's playing in my favorite Prague
cinema. Since the names are in Czech, I then click on a movie to see the
description (and translation of the name into English, which is the only
part I care about). Then I go to www.imdb.com and check out the user rating
(from 1 to 10). If it's an 8 or more, the movie's a winner, otherwise I
might want to investigate more. In this case, I click on the external views
and check out Roger Ebert's star rating (I don't read the article so as not
to spoil the suspense). Since Ebert has his own bizarre agenda, I also check
the Tomato meter on Rotten Tomatoes. I then go back and repeat the whole
process for the next movie.

What a pain. Wouldn't it be nice if I could quickly assemble an app that
consolidates all this information on one page for me? Ideally it would
actually alert me when there's a movie playing that meets my minimum
criteria, as well as offering an aggregate view of all movies. It should be
quickly adaptable so that if I happen to be eating dinner in Prague 4 (way
out in the boonies) I can generate a page for the nearby Multikino Galaxy
instead of the movie theatre in the center that I usually go to.

I suppose someone is going to point out that I can do all this in Python or
whatever if the appropriate XML interfaces are available. But the success of
the Web is based on the fact that the barriers to entry are so low... even
people who barely figured out how to turn on their computer are soon happily
clicking through the hyperlinks. To me the culmination of web services will
be when I can put together a quick app like this by pointing and clicking at
the appropriate areas of a set of web pages (implying that the web pages of
this type are generated from the underlying XML... a big and important part
of the web services idea IMO). This idea applies equally well to B2C and B2B
applications with web interfaces.

I feel like I must be stating the obvious here, but maybe not... apparently
people seem to think that web services are about some sort of new RPC whose
only advantage is that it has a lot of marketing momentum behind it.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Simon St.Laurent [mailto:simonstl@simonstl.com]
> Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 3:55 PM
> To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
> Subject: [xml-dev] lots of WS reading material
> There's a lot of new material on the Web Services discussion today.
> Paul Prescod's "Google's Gaffe" is a good place to start:
> http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/04/24/google.html
> Clay Shirky's "What Web Services Got Right... and Wrong" has 
> a different
> take:
> http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2002/04/22/clay.html
> Edd Dumbill's "Kicking Out the Cuckoo" suggests that Web Services need
> to find a more appropriate home:
> http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/04/24/taglines.html
> Marc Hedlund's "SOAP Wars" seems to continue the "it works" line of
> argument Dave Winer put forward here last week:
> http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/view/wlg/1331
> Dave Winer's written a "Rebuttal to REST":
> http://www.xmlrpc.com/rebuttalToRest
> Finally, most of my recent Weblogs have been about related issues:
> http://www.oreillynet.com/weblogs/author/166
> http://www.advogato.org/person/simonstl/
> I'm sure there will be more to come.
> -- 
> Simon St.Laurent
> Ring around the content, a pocket full of brackets
> Errors, errors, all fall down!
> http://simonstl.com
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