Microsoft’s recent major push to develop the .net platform is an attempt to aggregate and brand all internet services into the Windows operating system. And it just might work. SOAP and .net are sometimes referred to as a “cloud” because of the distributed nature of the processing; your machine accesses a server which renders your display based on stored interface components and applications that are potentially stored on different machines anywhere else, controlled by anyone else. I think that it is a key new technology and that it will play an important role in the development of communications technology in the next few years.
What is this technology? And where does it take us?
SOAP and .net use techniques that enable distributed computing and webserving. In other words, they allow web applications to run on independent computers and independent of the look and feel of the web site. Applications developers will want to adopt this technology because it means that they can focus on the application and spend less time on the user interface. Portals will want to adopt this technology because it means that they can integrate many external services and make them available to their users. Microsoft, I believe, is in the process of building this technology into their Windows operating system in order to enable any internet application to be run without leaving the Microsoft-controlled environment.
There is a programming design heuristic that is based on the separation of model, content, controller, and view. SOAP is analogous as it enables the separation of the model. The dominance of this design for programming was very strong, and similarly, the dominance that SOAP enables will likely be very strong. Effectively, The potential of XML is captured through the definition of protocols for the distributed exchange of applications.
What is the risk?
If .net is successful in becoming the dominant channel for web services, then there is a strong likelihood that Windows will combine the operating system and portal functionality to provide the complete computing experience. Microsoft will have the ability to target services, advertising, applications, communications, and other information to each individual. Further, web services will be conveniently available through integrated Windows applications, reducing the need for browser-based web access. Specifically, it will mean that the internet will be able to be re-faced with a Microsoft-branded front-end, and a selection of web services defined by Microsoft.
What is the potential?
In order for .net to become only one of many popular web service aggregators, the SOAP protocol must never give advantage to Microsoft over other aggregators. If SOAP (which stands for simple object access protocol) remains open in such a way that any portal can aggregate any SOAP enabled web service, then the result will be wonderful. Specifically, it will mean that the entire internet will be able to be re-faced with a customizable front-end, and your selection of web services will be personalized and context dependent based on specifications you select.