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Web services are dead, long live web applications

Posted by Daniel Brahneborg on 2007 March 3

Many years ago SOAP was born. To be able to write clients and servers, it got a specification called WSDL. Unfortunately it became too general, allowing for all kinds of call patterns, SMTP transfers, lots of different encodings and styles and whatnot. This made it too big, so there are still no tools that fully support it. JAXP probably comes closest, or maybe Dotnet.

The version that everybody uses is WSDL 1.1. WSDL 1.2 was supposed to be released in 2003. There is still no support for it. Now they’re talking about WSDL 2.0, which is even more useless.

In the real world, people used XMLRPC instead, just as they used Spring and Hibernate instead of the stupid “container based management” which only made things too complex. The latest version of Ruby on Rails gave support for REST, and now it seems that the two worlds are coming together, in something called WADL. It’s very similar to WSDL, but with the useless stuff thrown out, and only for REST style applications. The specification is less than 40 pages, which means it’s actually possible to implement tools for it.

I really, really hope something like this will catch on, because the current situation with web services is a nightmare. Everybody wants it, but for everything that is more complex than a Hello World, it’s useless. If you want to support other languages than Java you have to hand craft every single XML request. Completely insane.

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