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  1. The Road to Web Services
  2. Internet Standards
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The Road to Web Services

This article is excerpted from Chapter 1, "Web Service Fundamentals," of Applied SOAP: Implementing .NET Web Services by Kenn Scribner and Mark Stiver (ISBN 0672321114). It provides a brief conceptual and historical overview of the issues driving the emergence Web Services.

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Most things in software engineering happen for a very good reason—or, at least, we hope so. This is how concepts such as abstraction and encapsulation have become mainstream. As with any technology, we learn from past mistakes and capitalize upon our successes.

Web Services are no different. They have materialized from a variety of Web technologies that have been proven to work in the widely distributed environment of the Internet. The Internet itself has evolved over the years, spawning many new ideas and concepts that have contributed to the Web Service approach.

Waves of the Internet

Since the beginning of the Internet, many changes have come about in networking technology, security, system scalability, and many other areas of distributed computing. Overall, we believe that the Internet has succumbed to four major waves of development.

The first wave of the Internet started around the 1970s with some very important government research, specifically the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This is where Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) was born. Its goal was to interconnect computer systems through a complex architecture of networks and subnetworks. Over the years, a variety of physical networks (such as Ethernet) and routing technologies evolved to the point that, in 1990, more than 200,000 computers were interconnected on the Internet.

Although Internet connectivity was one of the most significant achievements in computing, it meant very little without applications to drive it. This is where the second wave of the Internet began (roughly in the 1980s). Tools such as FTP and Telnet gained in popularity by allowing system users to remotely access other computers. Although the tools were crude, compared to today's standards, the underlying protocols that they used where quite elegant.

In the early 1990s, the Internet began to seep into more sophisticated applications and led to the dawn of the Web, which marks the third wave. Browsers—and eventually Java applets—allowed the general consumer to experience interconnected communities of users. Of course, where there are consumers, there are vendors. This spawned more electronic business opportunities, as evidenced by the plethora of electronic storefronts and shopping carts.

All this, of course, has brought about the fourth wave of the Internet, which is the focus of this book—Web Services. Here, the goal is for multiple diverse applications to communicate so that they can execute some task. Not only does this improve the user's experience, but it also offers the ability for you to integrate functionality at a much lower cost than developing it all yourself. From the user's standpoint, all of this is orchestrated from a single application. But behind the scenes, one or more additional applications will likely participate. The key is that the applications work while remaining oblivious to vendor-specific technologies being used by the participating services.

Looking back, each wave introduced new Internet standards that facilitated the next wave of development.

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