[thelist] Web services - what's the difference?

Peter-Paul Koch gassinaumasis at hotmail.com
Sat Dec 14 12:24:32 CST 2002

>On Fri, 13 Dec 2002, Peter-Paul Koch wrote:
> > Hi,
> >
> > I'm having some trouble understanding the concept of web services.
>So is most of the web industry :)

Good to know I'm not the only one <g>.

>When *I* think of web services, I think in terms of an API, rather than
>in terms of a single application. A web service is typically a
>well-defined method of remotely calling a function, without having to
>worry about the exact implementation of the function. It's most useful
>when you have multiple servers that need access to the same set of
>functions, and/or when you want to expose some of your information to
>the outside world programatically.

So it's kind of making the entire back-office one object-oriented system
with applications/APIs gathering, compressing and giving access to large
blocks of information?

>For example, I work for a company in the trucking industry. Our
>customers want to get tracking information about their shipments
>(similar to how you can get your tracking/delivery info from UPS or
>FedEx). The tracking information will include things like the addresses
>of the shipper and consignee (recipient), the terminal locations that
>picked up and delivered the shipment, who signed for it, dates and
>times, etc. I can code up a lot of the lookup functions as web services,
>because they are generally useful, both internally and externally.
>So, I code up an API for functions like "which terminal services this
>zip code?", or "return the full address and phone number for the
>terminal with termid XYZ", or "return tracking details for tracking ID
>nnnnnnnn", "what is the standard delivery time between these two zip
>codes?", etc. Not only can *I* use these functions internally to build
>tracking information web pages, but our customers can use it to embed
>our tracking info into their own web sites.

And how does the embedding work? Suppose I want access to your API for
looking up zip addresses from my website. I'm with a completely different
hosting provider and use a different server side language. Do I simply call
your API and ask it for information? By HTTP or otherwise? Is this
information always in XML, or can we use other formats?

>Clear as mud?

Getting clearer, getting clearer.

ppk, freelance web developer
Interaction, copywriting, JavaScript, integration
Column "Keep it Simple": http://www.digital-web.com/columns/keepitsimple/
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