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December 19, 2003

HTTP is all you need

At this conference there was a pre-dinner keynote by Bertrand Meyer, which was a bit surprising because Bertrand is doing cool work with Eiffel and Coop, but is not really active in the service computing arena. I was hoping that he had found some cool connection between 'design by contract' and a 'web services contract', but that was wishful thinking.

Anyway, he had the mandatory slide with his definition of WS, and it was a list with HTTP, WSDL, UDDI, SOAP and XML, in that sequence. He briefly explained why these things were on his list and then made the statement:

But of all of these technologies, the only thing you really need is HTTP, you can do without the rest

I was dozing away in a half jet-lagged state so it took a while before it hit me what he had said. Unfortunately he had already taken off into his concurrent Eiffel talk after that, so I didn't get a chance to shout fire. But it is an excellent example of the level of understanding and agreement there about these technologies.

We need more people building and deploying before these kinds of talks really become meaningful.

Posted by Werner Vogels at December 19, 2003 09:32 AM
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Smart guy, that Bertrand Meyer.

Got any more bits, Werner? Damn your dozy head! 8-)

Posted by: Mark Baker on December 19, 2003 01:20 PM

Well, if you can already POST and GET whatever you want using HTTP, easily, what do you need WSDL/UDDI/SOAP for? Need it be more magical than that?

Greatest insights are often found by asking "is all this technological complexity really necessary for what we're trying to accomplish?". Of course, the question "what are we really trying to accomplish" is also often forgotten...

Furthermore, immediate technological result/benefit and other benefits are often confused. The SOAP/WSDL/UDDI combo is useful for the big guys to necessitate their complex, mammoth "best-of breed", "standard" development methodologies and tools that they use to justify the big $$$. But, despite all the claims to the contrary, there really isn't anything you can do with SOAP/WSDL/UDDI that you couldn't have achieved with for example CORBA (using IDL & NamingService) many years ago. I'd be also surprised if XML Schema was easier to learn and use than IDL, or HTTP+XML more efficient or less compute-intensive "protocol" than IIOP.

So perhaps, in many cases, the new stuff is all useful and good for some, but that does not necessarily equal an improvement in the purest technological sense?

Posted by: Petri Savolainen on December 19, 2003 04:09 PM

> But of all of these technologies, the only thing you really need is HTTP, you can do without the rest

I think you don't even need HTTP. But you really need XML(or some of its incarnations and associates), without which there is no standard portable way to describe and access services. I thinking making HTTP mandatory is ridiculous! So is the term "web services", when it can live without the web!

Posted by: Vishal Shah on December 19, 2003 04:15 PM

The statement that I can do anything that I can do with SOAP/WSDL/UDDI with HTTP doesn't buy you anything. I could say that I can do anything one can do with HTTP using plain TCP, or that I can build anything I can build in Java or C# in Assembler.

Posted by: Stefan Tilkov on December 19, 2003 05:28 PM

Make that "do anything *without needing to deploy new agreement*". So if you start with just TCP, you have to deploy new agreement to simply get some data. With HTTP, the deployed agreement about what GET means, what a URI is, and at least one standard format in which URIs can be discovered, already gives you that.

Posted by: Mark Baker on December 19, 2003 07:38 PM

What did you like about this conference? Can you post some more of your thoughts?

Posted by: shall on December 29, 2003 09:56 AM