October 28, 2001 - Web Services -- The XML's Role | WebReference

October 28, 2001 - Web Services -- The XML's Role

Yehuda Shiran October 28, 2001
Web Services -- The XML's Role
Tips: October 2001

Yehuda Shiran, Ph.D.
Doc JavaScript

Web services are the next hot Internet technology. Bill Gates, in his letter to Developer & IT Professionals, covers the motivation for Web services, and the XML's role in this technology. We point out some of his arguments in this tip.

Many of us envision an online world where constellations of PCs, servers, smart devices, and Internet-based services can collaborate seamlessly. Businesses will be able to share data, integrate their processes, and join forces to offer customized , comprehensive solutions to their customers. The information you or your business need will be available wherever you are, and whatever computing device, platform, or application you are using.

That vision has yet to be achieved. In many respects, today's Internet still mirrors the old mainframe world. It's a server-centric computing model, with the browser playing the role of dumb terminal. Much of the information you or your business needs is locked up in centralized databases, served up a page at a time to individual users. Web pages are simply a "picture" of the data, not the data itself, forcing many developers back to "screen scraping" to acquire information. Integrating that underlying data with your business's existing systems is a costly and frustrating challenge.

Today's standalone applications and Web sites create islands of functionality and data. You have to navigate manually between Web sites, devices, and applications, logging in each time, and rarely being able to carry data with you. Tasks that ought to be simple, such as arranging a meeting with colleagues from partner companies and automatically updating every attendee's calendar, are a nightmare in the best case, and impossible in the common case. This inefficiency is a major source for productivity loss.

Solving such problems is the key challenge for the next generation of the Internet. At the heart of the solution is XML (eXtensible Markup Language). XML is an open industry standard managed by the World Wide Web Consortium. It enables developers to describe data being exchanged between PCs, smart devices, applications, and Web sites. Since the data is separate from the format and style definitions, it can be easily organized, programmed, edited, and exchanged between any Web sites, applications, and devices. Just as the Web revolutionized how users talk to applications, XML transforms how application talk to each other.

You can call Web services from JavaScript. In upcoming tips and columns we'll cover the motivation and the implementation of Web services, and how to use them from JavaScript.