TECH TALK: India’s Next Decade: Web Services (Part 2)

(Note: This column is part of an ongoing series on “India’s Next Decade”. Over the next few columns, I have compiled a series of notes from various writers on what Kevin Werbach has called the Next WWW: Web Services, Weblogs and WiFi. Later, I will provide the context of how this is the set of opportunities our generation has to build new companies, and perhaps, a new India.)

An article on (March 13, 2002) elaborates on how Web Services will change enterprise software:

Perhaps one of the ost important things Web services can offer businesses is a streamlining of middleware integration. Web services allow for “dynamic integration” — the ability to integrate new applications with one another without time-consuming custom coding — between suppliers, partners and customers. In other words, businesses can integrate business processes beyond the firewall with suppliers, partners and customers without having to understand how those suppliers, partners and customers built their own IT systems. It can also aid in integration within the enterprise, especially when linking units or divisions that utilize disparate platforms.

Adds Jim Kerstetter in Business Week (March 18, 2002):

Get set for Act II, when the Web’s infrastructure becomes so advanced that people no longer have to find their way through a maze of software applications and Web sites to get things done. Instead, computers stuffed with different kinds of information, run by different companies, and hooked to different Web sites, can chatter between themselves behind the scenes to accomplish tasks.

It’s the Web at your service. For consumers, this means handing off some of the pesky details of life to your computer. A Web site can keep your personal calendar and automatically arrange such things as doctors’ appointments and meetings with the school guidance counselor. Corporations are tapping Web services to do everything from getting internal computer systems to share information to tightening links with business partners.

The potential reward is untold savings in time and money and a major boost in productivity. Web services are based on industry standards so that all the services can speak to one another. That keeps companies from having to cope with pricey, proprietary software that can cost 10 times as much as Web-service software. At the same time, companies are able to automate mundane tasks. “This is about automation–replacing manual processes with machine processes,” says analyst Ted Schadler of Forrester Research Inc. “It’s poised to revolutionize the way people solve business problems.”

An example of the potential use of Web Services from an article in the Wall Street Journal by David Pringle (March 15, 2002):

The ultimate goal is to allow Web sites run by a vast range of organizations, from hospitals to hotels, to work together to provide people and businesses with highly automated services. For example, if a businessman notes in his online diary that he plans to go to Paris on Wednesday, a preferred airline’s Web site would automatically book a ticket and arrange a hotel. It would then post the travel arrangements in the online diary, so that other trusted Web sites could organize further appropriate services.

Two recent examples of Web Services are the introduction of Google API and Amazon XML. Both allow access into the vast databases built by Google and Amazon. Wrote Steve Gillmor on the Google API in Infoworld (March 27, 2002):

Suddenly you could query and return results from 2 billion Web documents to your own or any application that supports SOAP. Weblogs sprouted with Google boxes as the popular search engine was reborn as a Web service. I already use Google as a spelling checker and memory-jogger; now I can embed it directly in Word, or poll Google (and the Web) automatically for new information in context as I write.

Writes Kevin Werbach on the implications in Release 1.0 (April 2002):

Developers could pull data from Google and Amazon before using scripts and screen-scraping technologies. Those, however, are brittle and usually require technical sophistication. By analogy, desktop publishing existed before PageMaker, but everything changed when there was as an easy-to-use tool. Web services mean that networked applications are going to be open in ways they never were before.

Web Services are the first building block of the new WWW. Next week, we look at the other two: Weblogs and WiFi.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.