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March 21, 2001 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Gah! So, was Deepleap the HailStorm Without Sufficient Funding and Corporate Leverage?
posted by holgate (21 comments total)

 
I am wondering... if someone started a directory of publicly available SOAP services and some independent sites started listing themselves on it (and developing the required SOAP interfaces) how could Microsoft compete?

I have been meaning to look into SOAP, but with SOAP implementations already available in most languages, it really shouldn't be hard to build it into the backend of most sites (MeFi included).
posted by costas at 6:29 AM on March 21, 2001


I am wondering... if someone started a directory of publicly available SOAP services...

The amihotornot guys started a soap directory a couple months ago here:
http://www.xmethods.com/
posted by mathowie at 7:47 AM on March 21, 2001


Sorry, what is SOAP exactly, and what does it have to do with the fact that Microsoft seems to have ripped off a good idea from the DeepLeap folks?
posted by aladfar at 8:06 AM on March 21, 2001


SOAP is a the use of XML in a standard way to hold information and meta information.

For example, suppose that you want to represent an age.
You could simply have the text of the age in years "25". Or you could have "age:25" or you could have "age, integer, years:25" . The last tells you the most about the field, it's name, data type, and units. These last bits are meta information. You could also represent this in XML. SOAP is a means of doing this in a standard way, and that mapping format itself can be expressed in a particular way so that translators are reasonably easy to write.

What they are trying to do is standardize data interchange and data interchange formats. Good for them. XML, however, is a high overhead format both in terms of space and code for parsers. Bad for them.
posted by plinth at 8:55 AM on March 21, 2001


SOAP is a protocol for calling a procedure on a program running on somebody else's machine. The request and the response are in XML and the protocol is simple, making it easy to create an interface between your software and a Web site that supports SOAP.

I think it's a simplified version of XML-RPC, which was itself created because other solutions like CORBA and Java's RMI are too complex.
posted by rcade at 8:56 AM on March 21, 2001


[aladfar] Sorry, what is SOAP exactly

It's been covered, but I already typed all of this junk, so I'm not going to just throw it away:

SOAP is an XML-based protocol for making remote procedure calls (RPCs) over the Internet. Network RPC protocols have been around for decades, but SOAP has the advantage of being simple to implement and understand.

SOAP 1.1 is a published standard, and the W3C is working on a recommendation for a similar protocol called XML Protocol, which I don't know much about. Dave Winer has a good list of SOAP resources and articles at soap.weblogs.com. Microsoft isn't the only company supporting SOAP. Big players including IBM, HP, and Sun have at least given lip-service to "supporting" the protocol.

The idea is to have a standard way of communicating between applications and services on the Internet. It's a reasonable standard, and since SOAP (client and server) interfaces are available for nearly any scripting language or platform you care to use, developing apps with it should be relatively simple.

[rcade] I think it's a simplified version of XML-RPC

Well, Dave Winer/Userland developed a protocol to pass RPCs over the Internet and called it XML-RPC, but it's significantly simpler than SOAP. SOAP is much more flexible and powerful, but at the expense of added complexity.

[aladfar] what does it have to do with the fact that Microsoft seems to have ripped off a good idea from the DeepLeap folks?

SOAP is the protocol behind network communications in Microsoft's much-hyped and poorly-defined .NET architecture. Essentially, all the network traffic between MSN Messenger and the servers hosting these Hailstorm services is done over HTTP using SOAP to make method calls and exchange data.

As for DeepLeap, it really has no relation other than I believe they developed their own set of protocols/XML standards for this sort of thing, and the end result is similar.

The big difference, I believe, is that Microsoft has significantly more resources and industry pull than DeepLeap, and unfortunately, sometimes that makes the difference.
posted by daveadams at 9:11 AM on March 21, 2001


Microsoft has significantly more resources and industry pull than DeepLeap, and unfortunately, sometimes that makes the difference.

Doesn't that mark a sea-change in the uptake of networking protocols? After all, TCP/IP wasn't the choice of the "market leaders" for quite a while, but its academic base gave it the edge on X.25 and other competing standards. Thankfully, SOAP seems less "embrace-and-extend" than past MS efforts, but I'm still not encouraged by the thought.
posted by holgate at 9:41 AM on March 21, 2001


It's called a free market. Compete or die.
posted by owillis at 10:26 AM on March 21, 2001


It's not a free market if you need to buy a ticket to enter.
posted by holgate at 10:27 AM on March 21, 2001


As far as I understand HailStorm and .NET (which is a bit, but not much), this is way beyond DeepLeap. This is something between WebTone/Jini and Web 2.0.

DeepLeap was a cool little tool, but did it allow you to tie a web service to a C binary? SOAP does. Yes, you could write a CGI and a dedicated parser to get web content to your application, but then it would have to be your service or it would be a one-off solution. NET will also give you the ability to not only hook up to services, but *download components* off the web.

Think about it: You miss a component from Word? you download it, install it, run it *locally*, *within your application*, on demand. Way beyond Java guys: it's the death of the dedicated application as we know it. It's software as service, data-first rather than function-first design. It's OOP from the OS level up to the user experience.

MS will be rolling out "NetDocs" (The Register covered it, I am too lazy to get a link) which is nothing more than IE with the ability to seamlessly integrate components via SOAP, COM, whatever. Want to look at a Word document? you can open it through the NetDoc viewer. What, you don't have Word installed? you can get the Word file reader component via a .NET service. There is a Visio graph embedded in the Word document and you want to edit that? ditto.

Next step of course, is an OO filesystem (no more hierarchies, yoo-hoo) and an extensible OS. MS already has most of that technology: they used to call it Cairo and it was supposed to be NT 4.0 before it was delayed to death and put on ice.

I don't know about the rest of MeFi, but the prospect of getting rid of decades of cruft and re-orienting PC application design around humans, rather than PCs, is making me drool. I just wish it wasn't Microsoft that was leading the charge...
posted by costas at 10:47 AM on March 21, 2001


another important difference: hailstorm implements presence notification, while deepleap didn't.
posted by lacal at 11:33 AM on March 21, 2001


Think about it: You miss a component from Word? you download it, install it, run it *locally*, *within your application*, on demand. Way beyond Java guys: it's the death of the dedicated application as we know it.

In other words, it's Microsoft's ActiveX press releases from 1996 rewritten to be compliant with current buzzwords like "Web services."
posted by rcade at 11:41 AM on March 21, 2001


rcade: pretty much, only SOAP promises to be way easier than ActiveX to implement and language independent. I was just looking at a pure-Python SOAP server/serializer that is only a few k.
posted by costas at 11:44 AM on March 21, 2001


...the prospect of getting rid of decades of cruft...

Isn't cruft one of the cornerstones of Microsoft's business model?
posted by harmful at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2001


A little bit of clarification... .NET is not the same as DeepLeap. Hailstorm isn't the same as DeepLeap. Some of the applications of Hailstorm, which is built on .NET, would have competed with DeepLeap.

In other words, it's Microsoft's ActiveX press releases from 1996 rewritten to be compliant with current buzzwords like "Web services."

Microsoft's marketing-speak is never coherently tied to a particular technology. The term ".NET" is analogous to "ActiveX" in that each was a term MS marketers came up with to attempt to present a happy picture that all of MS's technologies were part of one coherent framework. There are real technologies behind each of these marketing terms, but not necessarily on a one-to-one basis.

In a way, the .NET vision is the same as the ActiveX vision, except that MS has about six years of component-oriented-computing-in-the-Internet-era practical experience under its belt. So from that point of view, .NET and everything it implies are perhaps a more realistic vision in the sense that more of the necessary pieces are in place. Obviously, MS's tales of ultra-productivity won't come true, just as IBM's, Sun's, AT&T's, and any other big tech company you care to name haven't.

The thing to focus on here, I believe, is not the big picture of .NET or even the technical details behind it (like SOAP). Neither of those things are particularly insidious or dangerous, and the small details may even be quite useful. What you should be worrying about is Microsoft's Passport universal login strategy (which is closely tied with Hailstorm). Already, if you use MSN Messenger, Hotmail, Expedia, MSN Investor, or some other MSN property, you most likely have a Passport account. MS can track your activities all over the net and tie that information together with your personal information to form a really detailed picture of your online life. Hailstorm is a way to encourage non-MS properties and sites to utilize the same system. There are benefits, obviously, to both the user and the site operator. If you already have a Passport account, there's no need to re-sign up and come up with a new username and password for each site. Web operators don't have to worry about user account issues, etc. etc. But there are problems. You won't really be able to be signed on under more than one account, so if you don't want MSN, eBay, and whatever other sites use this system to share info about you, then you're out of luck. There are rumors that Windows XP is going to require a Passport account to utilize the Internet at all from your PC. "Hey, you don't have to even sign in to Messenger or Expedia or anything!"

Then there's the big question: do you really trust MS with all of your personal data? It doesn't appear as if there will be an easy way to use a different authentication/data-store provider other than Passport. MS has no reason to offer such an opt-out.

The unfortunate thing is that there are plenty of ways around such a centralized method of storing your personal data while still achieving a lot of the same benefits, but it's in the interests of the companies providing the services to centralize everything.
posted by daveadams at 12:37 PM on March 21, 2001


Actually, the more direct analogy to DeepLeap than HailStorm is probably Office XP's Smart Tags, which are incredibly cool from an architectural standpoint.

The only similarities I see between HailStorm and DeepLeap are mostly superficial. HailStorm is more of a SOAP/RPC front-end.

What connection any of this has to Instant Messaging, I'll never understand, but I guess that's how they want to market it.
posted by anildash at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2001


What connection any of this has to Instant Messaging, I'll never understand...

I think it's Clay Shirky's point about the "killer feature" of P2P: a username is more important than an IP address, or more specifically, the DNS. And IM is basically the tool that made the first transgression into that space.
posted by holgate at 12:58 PM on March 21, 2001


Besides, many, many Internet users already have a (or many) IM logins. MSN has an install base of what, 20 something million? Every MSN user has a customisable MSN.com page, a Hotmail account, and all that other crazy passport stuff.

By starting with the IM as the base, they're just value-adding (hey, if MS can fill their pages with buzzspeak so can I goshdarnit!) onto something many people already have.

It's actually a pretty good starting point. The app starts up as you connect, you're identified through it, and you already use it to pass files around and talk to people. Why not use it to buy stuff, too?

Alright, alright, good point. Pretend for a second that Microsoft never does anything nefarious with your data (where nefarious includes everything from spamming you, to selling you to spammers, to stealing your identity), and they've got a miraculously secure server. Now, why not use it to buy stuff too?
posted by cCranium at 1:56 PM on March 21, 2001


Ah, I can definitely see the benefits of a username as a "personal DNS" system. But that seems more like an authentication issue than anything relating to IM, per se. Or is the whole premise that the way to get money from IM systems is by co-opting their registration systems? Because I've got more user names and logins than I know what to do with.

I mean, do any of us know anyone that doesn't have at least 3 or 4 ICQ numbers?

Also, I did promise that I'll never get "what connection any of this has to Instant Messaging" and I'm going to stick to my word. So, I still don't get it.
posted by anildash at 5:03 PM on March 21, 2001


Gawd. I only have one ICQ number, myself. But it has six digits, nyah nyah.
posted by dhartung at 7:44 PM on March 21, 2001


So does mine, dan. Nyah nyah yourself. :-) Though since I despise ICQ's interface, I almost never use it.

Yahoo!, whose IM I do use, has the same basic premise. Take one login and use it for everything you possibly can.

One of the advantages also, of authentication through IM, is that you don't have to worry about browser encryption constraints (if they still exist). You can build a reasonably secure system because you've already got a client application installed on the system.
posted by cCranium at 6:04 AM on March 22, 2001


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