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Poor Man's Web Services

Posted by navaneeth on December 14, 2004 at 4:57 PM PST

I have to admit that I am a great fan of RSS. And I have always considered RSS feeds to
be Web Services. Alright, they might not technically qualify
to be Web Services according
to the W3C definition.
However they are sort of a stripped-down and cheap version
or what I would like to call a "poor man's" version of web services.

Why do I feel so ? Let's try comparing the formal web service approach to the
poor man's approach:

  • Web Service Description:

    • Intention:

      To communicate with a Web Service you need to know message formats.

    • Formal approach:

      Write a WSDL
      for every web service that you need to expose.
      The WSDL would define the message formats, datatypes, transport
      protocols, and transport serialization formats that should be used.

    • Poor man's approach:

      There is a well know message format that everyone needs to use.
      And THIS is the format.

  • Web Service Discovery:

    • Intention:

      Finding the end point to connect to

    • Formal approach:

      can be registry, index or peer-to-peer.
      UDDI is a standard
      registry based approach. UDDI exposes Technical Models or tModels. Use UDDI APIs to query
      the registry and obtain WSDL of the webservice that you intend to connect.

    • Poor man's approach:

      Scrounge through the web site and search for an orange button
      labeled "RSS" or "XML". When you find it,Click on it. If you want
      to do a wild search, use a feed search engine like

  • Web Service Security:

    • Intention:

      Authentication, Trust and Security policies

    • Formal approach:


      Web Services Security

      with a Token Profile.

    • Poor man's approach:

      Security ... huh ?


  • Web Service Integration:

    • Intention:

      Connecting to the service.

    • Formal approach:

      Write code that can send SOAP messages in compliance
      with the WSDL, after you have obtained the WSDL by
      making UDDI inquiry calls to the UDDI registry. Make sure
      to satisfy all the security mechanisms.

    • Poor man's approach:

      Open your favorite feed reader, Click on the big
      "New Feed" button, enter the URL and click Finish. Ok, If you
      want to code it yourself, write a java program (or even a
      shell script ) that can get the XML from the endpoint and
      parse it before displaying.

There you go !. As you can see, RSS follows the web services
template but with a highly simplified approach. IMHO Simplicity is the
essence of RSS's success.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am a great fan of Web Services as well.
I have written a lot of web services code. I have even
dared to read a few documents from
:). Web Services are complex because they try to
represent real world business processes, which are inherently complex.

However, my opinion is that real world adoption of web services will occur by radically
simplifying the web services model RSS. Simplified models
would further evolve to more complex ones, taking each need into
consideration( compare RSS 2.0 and 0.9)

Hmm .. hey wait a minute. There was something I was wanted to
announce through this blog entry and that's the reason I am writing this.
Oh yeah ! The Portlet community has just
setup up an RSS feed. You can find it here.

Check it out and enjoy Webservices...the poor man's way ;)

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