Thursday, January 24, 2002

Web services end users in

Web services end users in short supply ::: Here I am at this conference, sitting at a computer with a direct Internet connection. In the past ten minutes, I’ve checked e-mail (home e-mail through Hotmail, work e-mail through Outlook Web Access), read the news, I’m posting an update to my web site (through, and I’ve checked our CRM system for any activities going on at customers I need to worry about. The web has achieved ubiquity… but many are asking “what’s next?”
A recent conference hosted by InfoWorld focused on Web Services. Microsoft made a splash with their .Net announcement last year, but they’re hardly the only ones. Sun, IBM, and Oracle are talking about developing a more modular, component-style interface to their back-end apps. The goal – to allow multiple components to “talk” to each other instead of using stand-alone apps. The trends contributing to this – ever-cheapening bandwidth, increasingly powerful desktops and nearly-free storage – all point in that direction. The standards arising – XML, SOAP, and others – indicate that we may be approaching a technical landscape in which different apps can actually talk to each other! So where are they?
Microsoft Passport is a service. Instant messenger apps (AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, etc.) are web services. is a web service, just like Userland’s Radio 8 and Movable Type are web services. The conference (link is at the beginning of this post) held earlier this month suggests that a number of vendors are on the bandwagon – but also demonstrates that end users aren’t yet arriving en masse.
The question this raises: how does a services metaphor for computing change how companies acquire technology? What do they pay for? Will the services model be any more successful than the ASP fad of a couple years ago? (Perhaps the true value of a services model is that it allows firms to selectively decide which parts of their infrastructure they can outsource, without having to go all-or-nothing.)

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