The first phase of the Internet has also resulted in the creation of billions of pages. These pages were made possible by the use of a common publishing standard in the form of HTML. Just about anyone could write HTML and put up information for others to see. Dynamic applications needed only the use of simple commands like GET and POST over the HTTP protocol. The result is that today we are able to get almost any kind of information through the Internet. The catch is that it is We, the People.
Therein lies the problem. The information is accessible only by humans. Because HTML was a simple language with few complexities, it also meant that while we could separate the valuable content from the noise (ads?!) on even poorly formatted pages, it is a different ball game for applications machines.
So, the first phase of the Internet made communications and publishing easy – by the people and for the people. What Web Services hope to do is to make the same possible for applications and machines.
Here is how Steve Jurvetson of Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson summarises the story so far and offers insights on what is to come:
Whether that’s a sales exercise, a supply chain planning exercise, or the way in which companies communicate internally, the Internet adds an incredible potency. These communication channels do not need to be one-on-one or conference calls. They can be semi-automated to a variety of electronic forms of communication, various forms and applications that run not only within a company but also between companies.
And what the Internet provided to that whole domain was a lingua franca, sort of common language between businesses and within businesses that we’re only beginning to tap into.
There was a land rush sort of mentality to grab the easy and obvious applications to automate business as usual. They would selectively layer on an application such as expense reporting or any sort of purchase request authorization process and try to add automation to that or add automation to the sales force process. Then some companies looked outward from the company into this whole area of CRM. Still others are building trading exchanges and other forms of supply chain automation in a real-time and distributed basis. That’s where we are today.
We believe the next wave touches upon the area of distributed computing, where you look outward from a company and you tie together organizations with large populations. Tapping into that collective intelligence that exists within a company as well as within trading partners. Tapping into that information stream is tapping into the collective.
(Excerpted from a Merrill Lynch conference call report of October 23, 2001)