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On message

Tim Bray joins the party:

I think somebody needs to stand up and start waving a flag that's labeled 'WS-Simplification' or 'Real Web Services' or something, that's all about building applications with what's here today and what works today: XML, HTTP, URIs, SOAP, WSDL*, and that's about it.

People already are. Mark Baker, Sean McGrath, Paul Prescod, Don Box, even myself, have been pointing this out in one way or another for some time. Mark Baker in particular took a lot of stick for not being on message with WS orthodoxy. Paul Prescod was disembowelling SOAP-RPC and UDDI two years ago. It's a pity the W3C's TAG hasn't been the group taking the leadership role and waving that flag.

Almost everything you need to do in this space, well someone is probably already doing it with a combination of SMTP, HTTP, FTP, RDF, URI, MIME, XML. That's the WS stack. Perhaps Atom/RSS will enter that set.

* I have my doubts about WSDL/SOAP - good for demos tho'. I'm probably being unfair at this stage, but SOAP/WSDL to me is tainted with all that RPC, WXS, protocol neutrality, and by Infoset weasel wording. Some of the WSDL-driven tools are very cool, but cool does not a system make.

April 27, 2004 11:50 PM


Robert Sayre
(April 28, 2004 12:00 AM #)


One of these things is not like the others...

Bill de hra
(April 28, 2004 12:09 AM #)

"One of these things is not like the others"

I give up - but if I had to guess, I guess FTP.

Robert Sayre
(April 28, 2004 01:02 AM #)

Are you kidding? I use FTP all the time, so it must be included in that set!

Seriously, why is RDF in there?

Reinout van Rees
(April 28, 2004 08:56 AM #)

The original list of Tim Bray was "technology that works today" as opposed to some technology that is written up quite nicely in a standard, but not really used.

In that sense, people do use soap. Not that I like it, but it is being used.

On RDF: that, too, is being used. I see it more and more. At this stage, it isn't mainstream yet, though, which might explain your amazement on its inclusion in the list. I think soap is seeing more use than rdf :-)

But it is the obvious way forward from xml. XML allows you to encode your data in a generic format, RDF allows you to go an extra step and say much more about that data than any xml schema or relaxng schema can.

It'll be part of the stack in the future.

Jon Hanna
(April 28, 2004 10:08 AM #)

RDF engages with what was there before it, the use of URIs to identify resources. It's playing ball with what already works and fills in some gaps (third-party statements about resources, defined relationships between resources) rather than abusing what's been shown to work well as a transport protocol for what's been shown not to work well.

FTP I could live without, or at least I could live without in terms of automated systems and services, for manually transferring files around through a nice client like Filezilla it's still useful.

Oh, I have to disagree with your condemnation of "protocol neutrality". There's nothing wrong with "protocol neutrality" per se. XML/HTTP is protocol neutral - it can use TCP, SSL, TSL and other transport protocols. Indeed this was a major reason for making it mandatory to either use Content-Length or Chunked-Encoding, as some transport protocols might not be able to break the connection to signal the end of a response (the other reasons being that breaking the connection is inefficient and ambiguous as to whether the entire response was successfully transfered).

Chris Snyder
(April 30, 2004 11:24 PM #)

Think you can lose FTP if you believe that HTTP servers should implement PUT and MKCOL methods (a la WebDAV). It flies under the radar a little, but native WebDAV filesystem support is available today in Windows, OSX, and Linux -- you don't need a separate client to transfer files.

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