Home > Articles > Programming

Web Services Basics

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Web Services Business Models

You may have noticed that I didn't list software-as-a-service as a Web services application template. That's because software-as-a-service isn't an application. It's a business model in which you license subscription rights to access hosted software rather than license the rights to deploy the software in your own organization. For example, Salesforce.com uses the software-as-a-service business model. Salesforce.com hosts a CRM system, and users pay a monthly subscription fee to use the software.

A lot of the early hype about Web services led many people to equate Web services with the software-as-a-service business model. The hype projects a blue-sky vision of being able to dynamically discover, assemble, and consume Internet-based software services. But IDC predicts that the realization of this vision is at least 10 years away. I view that prediction as optimistic.

My point is that, except in a few rare circumstances, you don't sell a Web service. Instead you sell some other type of product or service, and you use Web services to help you do that. Only in very rare circumstances are Web services the focus of their own business model. Without a viable business model, it's hard to create a business case for Web services. For example, let's look at Google.

Google

Google is the world's leading Web search company. Google provides a public search engine that contains an index of more than three billion Web pages. The normal interface to this search engine is a human-oriented browser interface. The business model that supports this public service is advertising. Users can access the service for free in exchange for viewing a few ads. Google collects revenues from the businesses that place the ads.

Google also provides a Web service interface to this public search engine. It calls this Web service the Google Web APIs. You can use these Web APIs to query the Google search engine from an application rather than from a browser. The results of the search are returned as structured data so that the requesting application can process the information.

As of the time of this writing, this Web service is still in an experimental stage. Google is encouraging developers to use their imagination to create new and interesting applications using the Google Web APIs. Here are three examples:

  • Subject monitoring: issue regularly scheduled Web searches to find any new information on a particular subject

  • Market research: issue regularly scheduled Web searches and analyze the difference in the amount of information available on the subject over time

  • Plagiarism search: search for phrases from a piece of writing to ensure that it is original material

Researchers and developers may be excited about the Google Web APIs, but it's hard to figure out what benefit Google will gain from this Web service other than goodwill. The Google Web APIs undermine Google's normal business model. The Google Web APIs don't constitute a new service. Instead they simply provide a programmatic interface to Google's public Web search engine. The Web APIs are free. Users are required to register, and they are limited to 1,000 queries per day per user, but users of the Google Web APIs don't receive the Google advertisements.

The cost of an individual Google search is minuscule. Google views it as a reasonable investment to give away a few million searches in exchange for the generation of goodwill. But in general, I wouldn't recommend that you follow Google's example. Web services should be designed to support your existing business model. They should provide a new or improved mechanism to sell or use an existing product or service.

Kinko's

For example, let's look at Kinko's, the world's leading provider of document solutions and business services. Kinko's has offered a browser-based utility for quite a while that allows you to send documents from your PC directly to Kinko's for printing. Now Kinko's wants to use Web services to make the process even more seamless. Kinko's plans to roll out a “File, Print...Kinko's” Web service in mid-2003. This Web service allows you to send a print job to Kinko's over the Internet directly from any Microsoft Office application. The service will require you to install a small add-in to Office, which will supply the client interface to the Kinko's Web service. After you've installed this add-in, “Kinko's” will appear in your list of printers when you select File and Print...from the Office menu. When you select the Kinko's print service, Office will launch Kinko's client interface, which then presents you with an easy-to-use dialog box to guide you through the process of submitting a print job. The dialog box will help you find a convenient Kinko's location, select options such as stapling and binding, and specify payment, notification, and delivery methods.

Suppose you're sitting in your hotel room writing a proposal in Microsoft Word. When you're finished, you select File, Print...Kinko's. The hotel's high-speed Internet connection sends the print job to a Kinko's in another city, and the proposal is delivered directly to your client. Kinko's will even send you a notification when the job is complete.

The “File, Print...Kinko's” Web service doesn't compete with the company's core business model. It enhances it by providing another way for users to submit print jobs. And it provides a level of convenience that many users will certainly appreciate.

Amazon

Amazon also uses Web services to enhance its core business model. Amazon's business model is based on online retail sales. Amazon is renowned for the features of its online catalog, which provides the primary consumer sales interface. The catalog is designed to be viewed by a human sitting at a browser. Amazon also wants to make this catalog available to applications so that its 800,000 marketing affiliates can more easily sell products for Amazon. So Amazon created a Web API for its catalog. Before it offered this Web API, it was quite difficult to access the Amazon catalog from an application. You needed to build a screen scraping application that simulated a human sitting at a browser.

The new Amazon Web API allows Amazon's marketing affiliates to easily incorporate Amazon content and features into their Web sites. Many of Amazon's most popular search facilities—such as keyword search, ISBN search, and even “Listmania!”—are available through the Web service. Now consumers can buy products from Amazon transparently through the affiliate sites. The affiliate Web site uses the Amazon Web service to search Amazon's catalog and display the results on its own site, including features such as Amazon reviews and book ratings. This free Web service is a win-win situation for both the affiliates and Amazon. Each time a consumer makes an Amazon purchase through the affiliate site, the affiliate earns a 15% referral fee. Meanwhile Amazon expects to see a boost in product sales.

UPS

UPS also uses Web services to promote sales. UPS provides a set of Web APIs called UPS OnLine Tools. Businesses can use these APIs to connect their applications directly to the UPS logistics system to add integrated shipping, tracking, and related functionality. UPS OnLine Tools are available at no charge, and UPS provides free e-mail support. As with Amazon, this Web service offers a win-win situation. Customers appreciate the way this Web service can streamline their logistics process; UPS can expect to see an increase in UPS shipments.

T-Mobile

Sometimes Web services can help enable a new business model. T-Mobile International, a division of Deutsche Telekom, is one of the world's leading international mobile communication providers. One of its service offerings, T-Mobile Online, provides a wireless Web portal for more than three million T-Mobile customers in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Kingdom. As with most wireless plans, the business model is based on consumer usage.

When first planning T-Mobile Online, T-Mobile realized that to promote consumer usage it needed to provide interesting content on the portal. Recruiting content providers was critical to the success of this new venture. T-Mobile needed to make sure that it was as easy as possible for content providers to join the network.

One of the biggest challenges T-Mobile faced was figuring out a way to give the content providers access to information about individual consumers. Providers need this information to furnish customized, localized, useful content. Another challenge was devising an affordable micro-payment system to ensure that the content providers got paid for their services.

Given that each content provider might have a completely different IT infrastructure, T-Mobile elected to use Web services. All consumer information and billing services are made available to the content providers as Web services, as shown in Figure 2-4. The Web services ensure that content providers can quickly, easily, and in expensively integrate their content into the T-Mobile portal.

02fig04.jpgFigure 2-4. T-Mobile Web services maintain user session information, automatically capture and manage billing and payment services, and allow content providers to obtain information about consumers.

This venture has been very successful. T-Mobile Online has enlisted more than 200 content providers to make the wireless Web interesting and appealing to T-Mobile consumers. Through T-Mobile Online, these content providers provide services such as e-mail, Short Message Service (SMS) messaging, news, sports scores, restaurant recommendations, directions, stock trading, banking, ticket purchases, gambling, and more. T-Mobile doesn't charge either its consumers or the content providers for these Web services. Instead T-Mobile makes money from the increased airtime the consumers use to access these third-party offerings. The Web services aren't the focus of the business model, but it wouldn't work without them.

Internal Integration

In the examples I've cited so far, I've talked only about external integration applications. One key theme that permeates all these examples is that Web services can make it easier for your customers or partners to do business with you. Anything that simplifies business integration is a valuable commodity. Another recurring theme is that Web services do not themselves define a business model. Instead, they support existing business models, and in some circumstances they enable a new business model.

Although the external applications are interesting, most production applications based on Web services are internal application projects. As with external Web services, internal Web services should support your core business model. You can use them to improve and optimize your internal application systems to make your business processes work better. The first and foremost reason you should be exploring Web services is that they can dramatically lower the cost of application integration.

Merrill Lynch completed an internal application integration project in 2002. The idea was to build an integration bus to provide access to mainframe-based Customer Information Control System (CICS) applications. An integration bus is a common pathway that multiple applications can use to communicate. The original estimated cost for the project based on message-oriented middleware was $800,000. Then the company switched to Web services technology. Rather than purchase software licenses for the MOM technology on a host of different platforms and then build a bunch of adapters to allow the various client applications to use the MOM middleware, Merrill Lynch developed a small SOAP gateway for the CICS environment for only $30,000. Now any client environment can access the CICS environment using SOAP, and Merrill Lynch doesn't need any special software or any special adapters on any of its systems.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020