mark nottingham

Web Services are Dead, Long Live Web Services

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Web Services

When I joined Yahoo, one of the biggest adjustments I had to make was to their use of “Web Services”. There, that phrase means any kind of machine-to-machine communication using HTTP; SOAP isn’t assumed (or preferred).

This is diametrically opposed to the vendor and standards worlds, where “Web Services” means the stack of SOAP, WSDL and friends. Much confusion ensued on my part, because outside of the vendor and standards hothouse, real-world developers are still using the phrase to mean what it says; services on the Web.

Mark Baker says he sees the same thing happening in the greater world.

This is good, because the alternatives aren’t as intuitive. “REST” is so high-level, and often leads you into somebody else’s religious battle. I like Web-style, but it still seems a bit… architectural — which is fine for discussing the architecture, but not as good for talking to developers.

I’m trying HTTP Web Services to see if it will stick. The HTTP is just to disambiguate, for the benefit of folks with muddled heads like mine.


Simon Willison said:

How about calling them Web APIs? Breaks away from the WS-* association and there’s less potential for confusion as well (I met someone the other day who thought that Web Service was just another word for Web Application).

Thursday, May 25 2006 at 2:40 AM

Stefan Eissing said:

Some would say it’s, hmmM, Not Soap. ;-)

Thursday, May 25 2006 at 11:59 AM

Duncan Cragg said:

Hi - it was good to bump into you at XTech! (I’ll try not to submit this comment more than once!).

On ‘Web Services’: we should accept the use of the phrase by the standards people as fixed (they’re not going to switch from WS-* to MEP-*!).

Given that, current Web APIs can validly be called ‘Web Services’ - or ‘HTTP Web Services’ - because they’re certainly not REST or Web-style. They do actually follow the style (SOA) of Web Services.

I would object strongly to the phrase ‘Web Services’ - or ‘HTTP Web Services’ - being used for a truly RESTful API such as the Atom Publishing Protocol, Amazon S3 or Open Streetmap.

I know ‘REST’ causes blurring of the vision due to the battles that have been fought in its name, plus the confusion caused by the non-REST ‘REST’ APIs that now proliferate.

I guess ‘WOA’ is OK - but it looks like ‘WOAH!!’ - for stopping horses and such. ‘Web-style’ is too vague-sounding for me to take to clients or use in presentations.

By the way, I have just posted a blog article on the very real costs of non-REST APIs. It’s here:

I’m afraid Yahoo is also guilty of such APIs! =0) Perhaps you could help educate…



Friday, May 26 2006 at 2:38 AM

Thijs van der Vossen said:

How about just ‘web’?

Friday, May 26 2006 at 4:50 AM

Al said:

How about just ‘Services API’ or even ‘Open Services’

regards Al

Friday, May 26 2006 at 6:11 AM

Sam Ruby said:

s/Web Services/Web Resources/g

Friday, May 26 2006 at 8:44 AM

Stefan Eissing said:

Excuse my language, but all these proposals have the sex appeal of a dead cat.

Why not call them “Webby Services” or simply “Webbies” (WebbyS someone)? You might get the award doing them…

Friday, May 26 2006 at 9:51 AM

Julien Couvreur said:

+1 on “Web APIs”

Friday, May 26 2006 at 12:41 PM

Paul Downey said:

Whatever you come up with, make sure you trademark ;-)

Saturday, May 27 2006 at 3:38 AM

Danny Weitzner said:

I like impulse, but think http* might impede buzz. How about Web Utilities. They’re available to all and work acording to widely understood principles. Turn on the water faucet and you get water; need to replace it, go to home depot. Mere mortals can get what they need and those with just a bit of skill can fix them on their own. (Could even consider DIY Web Services).


Monday, May 29 2006 at 6:06 AM