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DigiCULT
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Imagine, instead, a set of standards
intended to allow different components
from across the Web to join in an
apparently seamless whole, independent
of computer hardware, operating system,
programming language or physical loca-
tion. This is the vision behind Web
Services, and we are already beginning to
see emergence of the necessary standards
and exemplar applications demonstrating
some of what will become possible.
POSSIBLE USES
Under the Web Services model, it will
be possible to build an application by
joining together a set of existing compo-
nents, choosing those parts which best
meet the needs of your organisation or
customers/visitors/patrons.The individual
components will normally be small and
relatively simple; often designed to fulfil
a single well-scoped task, such as conver-
ting a number from one currency to
another, finding available flights between
two named locations, or querying
compliant museum collection manage-
ment systems for any paintings by a
given artist available for use in an
upcoming exhibition.
It is difficult to grasp the full potential
of a Web Services approach without
reference to some real examples.
Unfortunately, the nature of developments
in this area means that much of the capa-
bility of these specifications is hidden from
the casual observer, enabling effective and
BY PAUL MILLER, INTEROPERABILITY
FOCUS, UKOLN, UK
A
ccording to a recent survey con-
ducted by SWR Worldwide
among 320 senior IT managers
in eight European countries, some 50% of
European businesses have adopted a Web
Services Strategy, and expect the enabling
technologies to be their highest spending
priority for 2003. The majority of those
questioned expect their businesses to have
adopted Web Services by 2005
1
. Despite
statistics such as these, and increasingly
high-profile posturing around the Web
Services approach by usual suspects such
as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft and
others, the cultural sector seems largely
unaware of what Web Services are, and
what they might offer us. This article
introduces Web Services, and offers
pointers to some of their potential uses in
our memory institutions.
A DEFINITION
According to IBM
2
, Web Services are a
new breed of Web application. They are
self-contained, self-describing, modular
applications that can be published, located
and invoked across the Web. Web services
perform functions, which can be anything
from simple requests to complicated busi-
ness processes.
Web Services are an important part of
the continuing evolution of the Web, as it
moves further from its roots as a means of
sharing static textual documents and
embraces a richer set of means by which
`users' (whether human or machine)
might be allowed to interact with a wide
range of possible applications.
We have had access to a reasonably
interactive Web for some years now, with
server-based technologies such as the
Common Gateway Interface (CGI) or
Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASP)
sitting behind many of the forms, query
screens and product ordering systems with
which we interact on the Web. These
implementations tend not to be based
upon open standards, and where it has
been possible to interact with them by
any means other than visiting the Web
site upon which they sit, it has tended to
require a degree of programming and
development work tailored to the specific
design of one service, rather than any-
thing that might be more generally
applicable.
A
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FOR
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ROFESSIONALS
©DigiCULT Paul Miller
1http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1106-960985.html
2http://www105.ibm.com/developerworks/education.
nsf/webservices-onlinecourse-bytitle/BA84142372686
CFB862569A400601C18?OpenDocument