Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Stackify Blog, Aruna Ravichandran, Dalibor Siroky, Kevin Jackson, PagerDuty Blog

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Article

Is the "Web" in "Web Services" a Misnomer?

Understanding the Phenomenon Requires Looking Back, Forward, and Around

I know I shall be accused of being old-fashioned, but sometimes in order to understand the present, let alone the future, one of the very best starting-places is the past. Take for example the present surrounding Web services. The best clue to what is happening right now in the early 21st century comes from an English philosopher and political economist who lived and wrote in the 19th century, John Stuart Mill.

No new ideas can make their way in the world, wrote Mill, "until aptly selected words or phrases have, as it were, nailed them down and held them fast." And the (so far, very brief) history of Web services illustrates his point magnificently.

Credit for coining (or first using) the term belongs to Philip Greenspun, the now-retired computer scientist who was a pioneer in developing online communities. Three years ago I asked him whether he recognized the way it was being used, back then, and he didn't. "I might have coined the term but not with its current meaning," he wrote me. 

Greenspun continued: 

"What I meant by a 'Web service'  was what I might today call a 'Web appplication,' i.e. a Web site that does the job formerly done by a desktop app. The Microsoft .NET-style 'Web services' we just called 'Web-based distributed computing'."

In Greenspun's view, "Web services" as it was being used back then (in 2002) was a misnomer.

"I personally think something incorporating the standard 1960s and 1970s term 'distributed computing' is the right one. 'Web services' doesn't fit because most/much of this stuff will eventually be happening on the Internet but without what most people think of as the Web (i.e., users will not be viewing in HTML though probably HTTP will be used so technically it could be called 'Web')."

The characteristic insight and prescience of Greenspun's analysis here was demonstated this week from two diametrically opposed camps.

In San Jose, Sun's president and COO, Jonathan Schwartz, made a speech in which he asserted that the PC is "so yesterday" because the desktop is no longer what matters. What has become important, Schwartz said, are "Web services on the Internet and the mobile phones most will use to access them":

"The majority of the applications that will drive the next wave of innovation will be services, not applications that run on the desktop. The real innovation is occurring in the network and the network services."
Meantime, far to the north of San Jose in Safeco Field in Seattle, WA, where Microsoft was staging its 30th-birthday annual meeting, Bill Gates was reviewing his company's first three decades and chose, out of all the myriad trends and phenomena - guess what - "Web services" as one of the two most central focuses in Microsoft's history:
"As I think about the last 30 years," Gates said, "I’m most proud of our making 'big bets' on technologies like the graphical user interface or Web services and watching them grow into something people rely on every day."

So there we have it. Microsoft wants to chain "Web services" to the realm of the desktop where commercial domination is still possible, while Sun wants to liberate the term to the superset, to the Network itself, a technical meritocracy where no such domination is possible but where the overall global market is so vast that any company with even a single percentage point of it can maintain and nurture a vibrant multibillion dollar business.

Above all, it is precisely the elastic quality of a term like "Web services" that will guarantee its secure place in the i-Technology lexicon for decades to come. It's all a little like Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Steve Ross-Talbot 10/24/05 07:33:03 PM EDT

I think that Philip Greenspun's comment that it really id distributed computing on the internet or through the web as defined by standard connection protocols is exactly correct.

The term Web Services is not and has never been helpful. People have forgotten what it really is and the term distributed computing is what it really is. By naming the term we can at least begin to have an understanding of what it is and therefore ask the right questions of it. Today, alas, this is not what happens. It is caught up in myth making and marketing and the important issues are forgotten.

I would suggest that naming is not a luxury but a necessity and refer all to the following url: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/users/rm135/wosname.pdf

Best

Steve T
Chair W3C Web Services Coordination

Web Services Journal News Desk 09/25/05 08:37:30 PM EDT

Why the "Web Services" Takeover of the World Will Continue. I know I shall be accused of being old-fashioned, but sometimes in order to understand the present, let alone the future, one of the very best starting-places is the past. Take for example the present surrounding Web services. The best clue to what is happening right now comes from a philosopher, the English philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
The nature of test environments is inherently temporary—you set up an environment, run through an automated test suite, and then tear down the environment. If you can reduce the cycle time for this process down to hours or minutes, then you may be able to cut your test environment budgets considerably. The impact of cloud adoption on test environments is a valuable advancement in both cost savings and agility. The on-demand model takes advantage of public cloud APIs requiring only payment for t...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
Many enterprise and government IT organizations are realizing the benefits of cloud computing by extending IT delivery and management processes across private and public cloud services. But they are often challenged with balancing the need for centralized cloud governance without stifling user-driven innovation. This strategy requires an approach that fundamentally reshapes how IT is delivered today, shifting the focus from infrastructure to services aggregation, and mixing and matching the bes...
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
While we understand Agile as a means to accelerate innovation, manage uncertainty and cope with ambiguity, many are inclined to think that it conflicts with the objectives of traditional engineering projects, such as building a highway, skyscraper or power plant. These are plan-driven and predictive projects that seek to avoid any uncertainty. This type of thinking, however, is short-sighted. Agile approaches are valuable in controlling uncertainty because they constrain the complexity that ste...
Cavirin Systems has just announced C2, a SaaS offering designed to bring continuous security assessment and remediation to hybrid environments, containers, and data centers. Cavirin C2 is deployed within Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a flexible licensing model for easy scalability and clear pay-as-you-go pricing. Although native to AWS, it also supports assessment and remediation of virtual or container instances within Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or on-premise. By dr...
"This all sounds great. But it's just not realistic." This is what a group of five senior IT executives told me during a workshop I held not long ago. We were working through an exercise on the organizational characteristics necessary to successfully execute a digital transformation, and the group was doing their ‘readout.' The executives loved everything we discussed and agreed that if such an environment existed, it would make transformation much easier. They just didn't believe it was reali...
"We're developing a software that is based on the cloud environment and we are providing those services to corporations and the general public," explained Seungmin Kim, CEO/CTO of SM Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
It’s “time to move on from DevOps and continuous delivery.” This was the provocative title of a recent article in ZDNet, in which Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google Cloud Platform, suggested that “software shops should have put these concepts into action years ago.” Reading articles like this or listening to talks at most DevOps conferences might make you think that we’re entering a post-DevOps world. But vast numbers of organizations still struggle to start and drive transfo...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
The cloud revolution in enterprises has very clearly crossed the phase of proof-of-concepts into a truly mainstream adoption. One of most popular enterprise-wide initiatives currently going on are “cloud migration” programs of some kind or another. Finding business value for these programs is not hard to fathom – they include hyperelasticity in infrastructure consumption, subscription based models, and agility derived from rapid speed of deployment of applications. These factors will continue to...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
DevOps teams have more on their plate than ever. As infrastructure needs grow, so does the time required to ensure that everything's running smoothly. This makes automation crucial - especially in the server and network monitoring world. Server monitoring tools can save teams time by automating server management and providing real-time performance updates. As budgets reset for the New Year, there is no better time to implement a new server monitoring tool (or re-evaluate your current solution)....
We just came off of a review of a product that handles both containers and virtual machines in the same interface. Under the covers, implementation of containers defaults to LXC, though recently Docker support was added. When reading online, or searching for information, increasingly we see “Container Management” products listed as competitors to Docker, when in reality things like Rocket, LXC/LXD, and Virtualization are Dockers competitors. After doing some looking around, we have decided tha...
"Opsani helps the enterprise adopt containers, help them move their infrastructure into this modern world of DevOps, accelerate the delivery of new features into production, and really get them going on the container path," explained Ross Schibler, CEO of Opsani, and Peter Nickolov, CTO of Opsani, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The benefits of automation are well documented; it increases productivity, cuts cost and minimizes errors. It eliminates repetitive manual tasks, freeing us up to be more innovative. By that logic, surely, we should automate everything possible, right? So, is attempting to automate everything a sensible - even feasible - goal? In a word: no. Consider this your short guide as to what to automate and what not to automate.
identify the sources of event storms and performance anomalies will require automated, real-time root-cause analysis. I think Enterprise Management Associates said it well: “The data and metrics collected at instrumentation points across the application ecosystem are essential to performance monitoring and root cause analysis. However, analytics capable of transforming data and metrics into an application-focused report or dashboards are what separates actual application monitoring from relat...