What The Hell Are Web Services?

from the no-one-knows dept

We’ve brought this up many times before, but no one seems to know what exactly web services are. You would think that at a conference about web services, people would at least have some idea. This does not seem to be the case, as Infoworld has an article entirely devoted to people at a web services conference discussing what web services are. I still think this is problematic. The space has way too much hype for something no one can even define. No one can explain to me why web services are useful or why I should even be interested in them.

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Comments on “What The Hell Are Web Services?”

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Brian Weaver (user link) says:

Re: Red Herring story on web services

Marketing departments are such a joy to be around. They create the most interesting new software and services for the engineers and programmers to work on even before anyone has held a design meeting. I think the next twenty something I meet that tells me they’re in marketing should be bitch slapped by a greasy small man in a Tutu. “Web services” Oh yeah! We got plenty of them over on the 6th shelf from the end. Web services sounds so technical doesn’t it? So IT, so computer, so with it. It’s whavever you need to sell at the moment. “We have a large web service server with huge bandage, we’d like to sell you.” A 450Mhz PC in a colorful gray case filled with web services. Let’s have a conference, we can make money off the coffee sales! Now there’s a web service.

Tom Henretty says:

Long post from the trenches

Agreed, web services have been hyped to death and there is a great amount of confusion as to what they are, but…

(1) XML was saddled with the same confusion and hype and has actually turned out to be very useful. I attended an XML developer’s conference in 2000, and nearly every session began with the question “What is XML?” Every definition was different.

(2) When it comes to interlanguage/interplatform communication, XML over HTTP is by far the easiest RPC mechanism I have had the pleasure of working with. My last project consisted of OOADing and coding an XML/HTTP interface to a number of EJBs. The first client app used javascript(!) on IIS/W2K to make calls to our server, which was WebLogic on Solaris. No one involved had any prior experience implementing this type of system, yet it was completed in six months, functioned extremely well in production, and shattered the business’s expectations. Try that with CORBA and a CMM -1 shop, it won’t happen.

(3) The web (HTML in particular) is tough to deal with programmatically. There are a ton of sites with useful information (auction listings, bank accounts, news sites, maps, etc.) but no consistent guidelines on how to access that information with anything but a browser. Sure, you can write some code to scrape the HTML and parse out the info, but what happens when the page layout changes? You’re fscked. Web services would give programmers a consistent way to access this information and not force you to modify your app whenever a picture is added to a page. I guarantee that there would be a ton of interesting apps if data was separated from presentation on the web.

(4) Just because something is hyped doesn’t automatically mean it sucks, look at Lord of The Rings.

Tom Henretty says:

Re: Long post from the trenches


(4 cont.) Or linux. Or the internet. Web services are essentially a good idea. Like any good idea, however, a lot of clueless randoms are going to come forward with horrendously misguided ways to try to make money off of them, hence the marketing driven hype. Look at the dotcom ex/implosion, a lot of the same dynamics are at work here.

(5) If you find web services confusing, try a telecom analogy:

  • UDDI – Phone book
  • WSDL – Phone number
  • XML/HTTP RPCs- Conversation

SOAP is not the only XML/HTTP solution, this is a common misconception. SOAP is the standard that has the most big money backers. You can use XML-RPC, ebXML, google for the newest latest greatest, or roll your own – it’s not that hard if you can write a schema or DTD.

(6) Web services are basically three things: UDDI, WSDL, and XML/HTTP RPCs, and even the first two are debatable. Nearly everything else is either (a) marketroid conceived junk that attempts to baffle IT people into buying crap they probably don’t need or (b) any number of competing grandiose delusions about the future of the internet, none of which will likely be realized completely.

“The best thing about unemployment is the weekend that lasts until you get a new job” -Anonymous

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