Let's Get Technical!
Tuesday, January 12, 1999 by Dave Winer.
Only software politics
When I write about US government politics some people wince. "That doesn't belong in DaveNet," they say. Dave is a technical guy. What does he know about integrity and working together? Well, this is technical piece. I hope you're all happy!
As you know, in early 1998 I started writing about XML-RPC, a way to build distributed applications using the standards of the Internet, HTTP and XML. We've had great success with XML-RPC, we deployed in March of last year, and have been building editorial groupware systems on it, routinely, ever since. The technology performs well, it's fast, easy, and very powerful. We also use it in push applications for updating our customers. They love it, and don't even know that they're using a revolutionary technology when they get the latest incremental updates from our server.
So even if no other company deploys XML-RPC compatible software, we're happy, it's been very successful. But of course we'd like other developers to build compatibly so our customers can use our respective products with that elusive but much talked of concept -- synergy!
That's why it's so disappointing when another small company comes out with an aggressive new technology positioned against ours and makes no attempt to be compatible with it or even acknowledge it!
Now this silly kind of bickering goes on all the time in the top echelons of the software industry, but why should two small companies, Allaire and UserLand, do this? We shouldn't. It's wasteful and silly. Not a great way to compete. XML was supposed to prevent this kind of thing from happening.
I've been aware of Allaire's WDDX proposal for a few months. I certainly consider it competitive with our XML-RPC spec. When I first heard about WDDX, I thought it would be easy for us to be compatible with it, if it gained traction. No point making a big deal about it until they start doing some marketing.
This afternoon I finally had a chance to read their site, and they attempt to answer the obvious question. How does it compare to XML-RPC? But instead of comparing it to our protocol, they compare it to the (much) more complicated WebBroker protocol from DataChannel. They said theirs is simpler, but that's true only if you ignore UserLand's XML-RPC.
We aimed for light-weight, Allaire had the same philosophy. Good idea. But now I want to know why they aren't compatible with our object serialization format? That seems like a reasonable question for them to answer on their FAQ page, but they side-step it, (I guess) hoping the reader won't notice that they don't compare WDDX against the only comparable object serialization format, UserLand's.
I think at least they should point to our spec, and make a statement about it, let people looking at WDDX see that there's an alternative and do a reasonable comparison. And actually, even better, I think we should get together and iron out our differences and come up with an object serialization format we both agree on. That would be powerful. I bet Microsoft and others would pay attention to that.