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REST vs. SOAP: Which SOA Is More Popular?

While much of the hype around Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) revolves around SOAP and its request/response custom-API based brethren, REST-based SOAs are quietly, but quickly, permeating the web to such an extent that one wonders whether SOAP-based SOA’s have already been permanently eclipsed.

Ironically, part of the power of REST-based SOA’s is that very few people realize they are using them.  The stealth nature of REST-based SOA’s has much to do with the fact that they typically only use simple URLs and small snippets of HTML to accomplish their mission whereas SOAP-based SOAs use a complex series of standards, IDEs, and custom APIs.  Indeed many people who “program” with REST-based SOA’s don’t even know they are in fact programming a web service.  To most of them, they are simply cutting and pasting some text into a web page.

One of the most basic examples of a REST-based SOA is Amazon’s affiliate network (or for that matter any e-commerce affiliate network).  Amazon’s affiliate partners simply paste a small snippet of code into their website and then become part of a distributed web service in which they display Amazon’s goods and Amazon then pays commissions on any sales that occur as the result of their referrals.  This service, now with tens of thousands of participants, is all done by leveraging the existing web infrastructure.  Amazon does offer more complex SOAP-based web services, but these services are have been adopted by only a small set of their affiliates due to their complexity.

Another great example of a REST-based SOA is Google’s AdSense network. To the right of this article you can see some Google Ads that (hopefully) are relevant to the context of this article. By simply adding about 10 lines of HTML code to this site, not only have these context sensitive ads been placed there, but this site has been linked into a highly complex distributed paid placement ad network.   In fact, so far this month, I have earned over $43 just by placing these 10 lines of code on my web site.  To be fair, Google does use a fair amount of Java Script to actually enable the service, but from the endpoint’s perspective (mine) the service only requires a small snippet of code that requires no programming knowledge to use.

It is this ease of use and simplicity that sets REST-based SOAs apart from their more complex and admittedly robust SOAP-based cousins. As a result of this relative simplicity, REST-based SOAs are bound to see much wider adoption throughout the web than SOAP-based SOAs.

December 22, 2004 in Middleware | Permalink


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