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Overheard at Burton Catalyst

"REST is just the HTTP GET based interop which we used to do 20 years ago".

Well, maybe not 20 years ago, but in many ways there is nothing new about REST. For me, it goes back to a 1996 article by Jon Udell in Byte Magazine entitled "On-Line Componentware". You can read the article via Archive.org - at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.byte.com/art/9611/sec9/art1.htm . The article described calling AltaVista using a Perl Script. It's an issue with "Java Chips" on the cover, and it's sitting in a box in an attic in north Dublin - stuff I never got around to bringing over to Boston. Jon Udell's column talked about calling a URL programmatically by passing parameters in a Query-String, and then parsing the HTML results into Perl variables. Simple in retrospect, like a lot of good ideas, but it was revolutionary to read that every website is a software component and that "A powerful capability for ad hoc distributed computing arises naturally from the architecture of the Web". Websites become APIs
. For me, this idea provided the ideas behind projects I implemented for the Irish government Revenue service (equivalent of the US IRS).

Fast forward to 2009, and Cloud Services are presented as APIs, with API Keys, called using REST patterns. It is reasonable to say "there is nothing new here". Look at how Bing exposes a Web API. It's very similar to how Jon Udell was calling AltaVista in 1996, except with the addition of the API Key in order to deter abuse.

One new thing is that there is now SOAP as well as REST. But even there, it shouldn't be a case of "one or the other". If you want to bridge REST to SOAP-based Web Services, check out this post on converting REST to SOAP using the Vordel Gateway.

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More Stories By Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill is VP Innovation at Axway - API and Identity. Previously he was CTO and co-founder at Vordel, which was acquired by Axway. A regular speaker at industry conferences and a contributor to SOA World Magazine and Cloud Computing Journal, Mark holds a degree in mathematics and psychology from Trinity College Dublin and graduate qualifications in neural network programming from Oxford University.

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