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If Only Santa Had Listened to Those Web Services Experts…
If Only Santa Had Listened to Those Web Services Experts…

(February 13, 2002) - It began last December when Tim Ewald, a principal scientist at component software think-tank DevelopMentor - and who specializes in the effective application of cutting-edge component technologies to the production of scalable distributed systems - teamed up with DevelopMentor colleague Martin Gudgin to write an open letter to Santa Claus.

Their request? "Dear Santa," they wrote, "all we want for Christmas is a WSDL Working Group."

Each to his own, you may say. But the request from Ewald and Gudgin was unusual, for both are members of the World Wide Web Consortium's XML Schema Working Groups…and in an ideal world such a gift ought to come from the W3C, rather than from Santa Claus!

WSDL is the XML-based language that captures the mechanical information a client needs to access a Web service - definitions of message formats, SOAP details, and a destination URL. Ewald and Gudgin admitted that "something like WSDL is necessary" but felt, and they were not shy about mentioning this to Santa, that the current version of the Web Services Description Language, um, sucks.

If only Santa would bring them a WSDL Working Group, they claimed, they'd maybe be able to get rid of the difference between document and RPC binding style, get rid of the difference between literal and encoded binding use, and standardize a way to pass portType (interface) and operation information on the wire.

It turned out though that Santa wasn't a Web services developer. And despite its role as the Web's premier standards body, the W3C didn't rush to give Ewald and Gudgin the Christmas present they wanted either.

What happened next is that the industry's Web services giants - including Microsoft, IBM, BEA, HP, and Intel - upped the ante by last week launching the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), a consortium aimed at boosting Web services. Thus effectively bypassing the W3C, whose hackles must have risen on reading the WS-I's public launch statement that it "will provide the clarity, guidance and direction around Web services that customers have been requesting as they move into the Web services model of computing."

How can it possibly have come about that the W3C, a consortium that numbers among its leaders the inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and XML pioneers like Tim Bray (who coincidentally reminded the world that last week was in fact the fourth birthday of XML), didn't react to what top experts were saying? Since XML-based Web services are at the heart of, for example, Microsoft's .NET Framework, and interoperability is the new watchword of vendors who previously never even talked to each other, how can the W3C fail to have seized the initiative and fast-tracked its work on WSDL?

Analysts' answers vary, but fingers are being pointed at Berners-Lee's ambitious vision of the "Semantic Web" as the successor to the WWW. Whereas Web services are here-and-now, with an immediate need for agreed standards to underpin them, the notion of a Semantic Web is much further off. Accordingly, say the critics, the W3C has been barking up the wrong tree…with the result that it now risks losing its leadership position, as the Web services paradigm rips through first the software development, and subsequently the business, world.

In an even more curious twist to the tale, Sun Microsystems has not as yet aligned itself with the WS-I, despite its Sun ONE initiative which is Web services-oriented. Since the WS-I wants to provide implementation guidance and education to accelerate customer deployments, as well as to articulate and promote a common industry vision for Web services, one might have thought that Sun could hardly afford to stay outside a grouping that has already united Accenture, BEA, Fujitsu Business Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Oracle, and SAP. Asked whether Sun will join WS-I, Sun's press relations manager Russell Castronovo remarked, "We're looking into it. We think the idea has merit. We want to be on the board." WSJ will report further on the situation as it unfolds.

Related Articles

Accenture, BEA, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and SAP Form Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) to Speed Development and Deployment of Web Services; Provide Support and Roadmap for Developers and Customers

W3C Sets Record Straight On New Web Services Alliance:
"WS-I Is Not a Competitor to W3C...They're Choosing Specs, Not Building Them"

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

...I presume?


My understanding was that nobody can talk about this because of secrecy (which I am not bound by, because I'm not on the W3C inner circle anymore) but the WSDL working group was actually held up by the P-word. The nasty RAND debate at the end of last year suggests to me that this is true.

I doubt the Semantic Web has anything to do with it at all.

Your Feedback
Jeremy Geelan wrote: ...I presume? JG
Paul Prescod wrote: My understanding was that nobody can talk about this because of secrecy (which I am not bound by, because I'm not on the W3C inner circle anymore) but the WSDL working group was actually held up by the P-word. The nasty RAND debate at the end of last year suggests to me that this is true. I doubt the Semantic Web has anything to do with it at all.
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