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W3C weighs in on Web services

Five months after reorganizing its Web services work, the influential standards body is releasing a trio of drafts related to the much-hyped trend.

Five months after reorganizing its Web services work, an influential standards body has released a trio of drafts related to the much-hyped trend.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) this week issued the first working draft of the Web Service Description Usage Scenarios. The scenarios are meant to outline real-world uses of Web services that will help the W3C tailor the Web Services Description Language.

The release of the scenarios comes a few weeks after the W3C published its Web Services Architecture Requirements and Web Service Description Requirements, also designed to clarify the W3C's goals in standardizing Web services.

The three new working drafts are the first related to Web services since the W3C formed its Web Services Activity in January.

The releases may help quiet criticisms from companies interested in creating Web services that the W3C hasn't done enough to establish common ground among developers who have been backing a number of fragmented technologies.

As it has in the past, the W3C defended the timing of its Web services releases.

"Reaching consensus within the industry and the rest of the Web community takes time," said Philippe LeHégaret, member of the Web Services Description Working Group. "The documents released by the Web Services Description Working Group provide well-defined boundaries to the future WSD language, including the changes we are going to make to WSDL 1.1"

One analyst who has taken a dim view of the W3C's Web services activities in the past gave the recent drafts mixed reviews.

"There's some good stuff there, including some jiggering of the oddball WSDL terminology to be more consistent with known software terminology," said Uttam Narsu, analyst with Giga. "WSD Usage Scenarios has lots of good ideas. But looking at the WSD Requirements, I'm not sure that they capture the richness in the scenarios. They seem very sparse."

Matthew Berk, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix, saw another lesson in the drafts, warning of the dangers of growing complexity and distance from real-world programming work.

"The W3C has a great and noble mission, and I'm thrilled they're working through a set of really thorny problems," he said. "At the same time, I sometimes wonder whether we're over-abstracting our use of what are, at core, relatively simple technologies and protocols."

He said implementation of such standards to date has in some cases simply replaced one set of problems with another.

"The core protocols for Web Services--XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI--are an elegant foursome that can be leveraged to great advantage," Berk said. "I just hope their 'standard' use won't force us to adhere to an ever-growing kitchen sink of complexity."