Web Services Standards Cant Be Rigged

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2002-02-11
 
 
 

Curse those big software vendors. Now theyre out to take over the world by rigging the standards for Web services so that they lock developers into proprietary languages and keep the little guys out of the lucrative Web services market.

At least thats what some in the developer community say. But the companies they are saying this about are IBM, Microsoft and Sun. Now, Im willing to buy into almost any wacky conspiracy theory, but I cant see these three agreeing on much of anything, never mind agreeing to cook Web services standards—WSDL in particular—so that the standards lock others out but work well for all three of their respective development platforms. Frankly, I would find it much more likely to believe that Microsoft and Sun, in particular, would do whatever it takes to make sure a standard wouldnt work on the others platforms.

A semivalid argument from the conspiracy crowd is that standards such as WSDL arent necessary, anyway. After all, most Web services can be built using XML and current Web standards. But this way of doing things makes it very hard to have standardized services that can be ported easily from one business to another.

Still, Web services are important enough that no one wants there to even appear to be a potential lock-in or malfeasance when it comes to standards for the services. With this in mind, the World Wide Web Consortium has formed the Web Services Activity group to sort through Web services standards and technologies to guide their evolution and also make sure they interoperate well with other W3C Web standards and activities.

The latter point is key, since anything that locked into proprietary technologies would most likely have problems supporting open standards. Some will point out that a Microsoft employee is chairing one of the working groups in the Web Services Activity group as proof that a fix is in. But Microsoft personnel have been active in many W3C groups (as have employees of many vendors), and these standards have repelled influence.

In my experience with the W3C, having an employee as the chairperson of a group could work against Microsoft, since it will have to work especially hard to avoid even the appearance of controlling the standards.

However this works out, the simple nature of how Web services work and how companies compete will keep Web services open to all comers. And open is what Web services must be to succeed.

Are Web services an important part of your companys future? Let me know at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

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