ebXML, SOAP and Apple
Tuesday, October 3, 2000 by Dave Winer.
A knock at the door. A courier. Please sign for this. On the outside of the envelope, "Attn: Service Agent". It's from Wilson Sonsini, a famous Silicon Valley lawfirm. Service agent! (I'm being served.) Not a good thing.
Should I sign for it or not? Maybe Conxion is suing me? Maybe I've infringed on a patent? As I open the envelope I wonder how my life is changing.
All for naught. I forgot to send back my release for the merger of Peer Logic with Critical Path. It's a late notice. Easy to deal with. Just like the water bill, or PG&E. I signed the form and mailed it back. Life is good.
Apple Apple Apple. I can't believe what happened to their stock in the last week. I've never seen anything like it. As a developer I've never cared about things like stock prices, and if the company ships a product that customers don't buy enough of, so what? Clearly there's a discernable process at Apple. I don't know the insider view of it, but I see a stream of products, that tells me that there are more coming, for sure.
In early 1996 I wrote a piece for Upside where I pretended I was the CEO of Apple (this was before Jobs came back) and outlined a comeback plan. There are some elements of my plan that Apple has been executing fantastically. They didn't buy a song, but they did produce the mass market machine I described, it's the iMac. They nuked CyberDog and OpenDoc as I would have, and cleared up the positioning, they make computers now, not system software, or anything else.
On the other hand, Apple's developer story is "Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia," and that's not enough. You need little trees, for new markets to develop, for a platform to thrive. And most important, in light of the stock collapse, they didn't smooth out the distribution problems, and they're tough, when you hit a bump, it shows up in the profits, quickly. The market doesn't understand this.
Apple hit a glitch. It'll be easy to get back on track. If I played the stock market (I don't) I would buy AAPL now. If I were a developer (I am) I'd probe Apple to see if there's some new opportunity to invest in each other, based on support for each others' products. I've said it many times, my relationship, as a smallish developer, only works when I'm selling their hardware, and they're selling my software.
A question. Is there an independent developer mail list for the Macintosh? There used to be a few. Are they still there? Or should we start a new one at eGroups? I'd be willing to invest a few cycles in such a list.
An article in SD Times about ebXML said "The SOAP architecture, in which Microsoft has played a leading role and which had been under consideration as a possible transport mechanism for the messages by the TRP group, was rejected as being too closed an architecture for the stated open and collaborative direction of the ebXML initiative. Instead, the ebXML initiative chose MIME-XML technology to wrap and send the message."
This wasn't a surprising development. The goals of ebXML, as far as I can tell, are more complex than those of SOAP. Further, the things that ebXML does that SOAP doesn't, put it squarely against BizTalk and UDDI, the extras Microsoft and the B2B vendors are adding to SOAP. (That's probably what the "too closed an architecture" comment is about.)
These are of no more concern to me than the things ebXML does. I am not a B2B technology vendor, and I'm happy to have compatibility with Microsoft's software at the SOAP level, for now; and I think that some parts of Microsoft will produce software that our stuff will connect to.
I'm looking for a mass market, something like the Web browser was in 1994, but coming from lots of independent developers working together. I get excited when I hear that people like Philippe Kahn and Rohit Khare (and three other top-level developers who must remain nameless at this time) are building user-level products around SOAP, and nothing more than SOAP.
SOAP is a remote procedure calling protocol, as I see it, it's not doing the same things as ebXML. I'm sure their goals are noble, and the software and services they deliver will be useful, but I'm interested in the Internet as a creative environment, so I see SOAP differently. To me, it connects user-level tools into clouds of content. My vision is focused differently than the Dot-Net vision, and the (apparently competitive) ebXML vision.
It can be simple, just do the things we were doing with COM and Apple Events, but do it over the Internet. No lock-in. Happy users. And to open source developers, this can be a basis of friendship. HTTP packets don't know what kind of software sent them, or is processing them. IBM's SOAP implementation is open source. Let's get all the environments wired up and validated, and start building great reliable clouds for all the users who will soon be running SoapWare on their desktops. A consistent theme over the years. ;->
If you have comments, please send them to me via email. I'd like to revitalize the Mail Pages we used to do in 1997 and 1998.
If you have comments, write me a short bit of wisdom, tell a story, give us some interesting info, and I'll make sure people see it. Please self-edit as much as possible, correct obvious spelling errors. Also include the title of the piece you're responding to in the subject. All comments are on the record and for attribution, unless you specifically state otherwise, at the top of the email.
It works like the Letters to the Editor page in a newspaper. We've done it before, it's the right formula, assures a high road and opens the channel for more points of view.