Thursday, October 07, 2004

Web Services: Bloated, Opaque and Insanely Complex?

Where's the simplicity in Web services?
October 5, 2004
Martin LaMonica, Staff Writer, CNET

Has Web services, the technology intended to simplify programming, gotten too complex?

A debate is raging over whether the number of specifications based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), defining everything from how to add security to where to send data, has mushroomed out of control. Defenders of advanced Web services specifications say they are needed to ensure that new computing architectures are flexible enough to accommodate both sophisticated and smaller-scale applications. Detractors say that simpler application development methods are good enough.

The rallying cry for people who favor simplicity is a technology approach called REST, or Representational State Transfer, a method of building applications by sending XML documents over existing Internet protocols. This allows programmers to construct applications with existing tools and computing infrastructure, notably HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

Analysts say REST, a Web services alternative that sends XML documents over existing Internet protocols, is suited for relatively simple applications. But businesses wanting the benefits of the flexible systems design called a services-oriented architecture should adopt Web services.

The long-running dispute has even drawn in some of the technological fathers of Web services. Tim Bray, co-inventor of XML and director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems, said recently that Web services standards have become "bloated, opaque and insanely complex."


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