W3C Blesses, Proposes SOAP 1.2

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SOAP Version 1.2, whose progress had been hindered last year by intellectual property concerns, has advanced to the next crucial stage in its rite of passage, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced Wednesday.

SOAP 1.2 is a lightweight protocol meant for exchanging XML-based, structured and typed information on the Web. SOAP , or Simple Object Access Protocol, began as a one-way message exchange language, usually between programs in separate operating systems. Later, programmers determined applications could be improved by combining one-way exchanges with features provided by a protocol. That's why the W3C began working on SOAP 1.2.

Just as languages such as XML are necessary for Web services, SOAP is also vital in fostering them because without the languages to orchestrate them, Web services will not work. The challenge is for both the sender and receiver entities to agree on an application level transfer protocol.

The news is bright after a dark episode in the spec's history last year, as the passage of SOAP 1.2 was thwarted by two firms who demanded royalties from what they claimed were intellectual properties used in the spec's ingredients.

Epicentric has since relented while webMethods dropped out of the W3C group working on SOAP 1.2. The company also said it has not identified any of its patents in the specification and that it is not claiming any specific patent rights.

ZapThink Senior Analyst Jason Bloomberg cheered the progress of SOAP 1.2.

"The 1.2 version of SOAP cleans up most of the issues and ambiguities with the previous version of SOAP, and may actually be the final version of SOAP, or near to it," Bloomberg said. "Reaching the final version of a standard as fundamental as SOAP is important to insuring the interoperability promise of the standard, so it's encouraging that the W3C has made such progress.

ZapThink Senior Analyst Ronald Schmelzer agreed.

"While the WS-I [Web Services Interoperability group] was mainly slated with resolving interoperability issues between different Web services implementations, solving these issues in the specification definition process is the best route to go -- the more ambiguities that are removed from the spec early on in the process, the better it will be for companies building products for the spec, and for enterprises implementing them," Schmelzer said.

The spec was blessed by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, who said more than 400 issues were resolved by the W3C XML Protocol Working Group to ensure that SOAP 1.2 progressed. IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and BEA systems are group members.

"Starting today, developers who may have hesitated to pick up SOAP 1.2 should take a look," Berners-Lee said in a statement. "After resolving over 400 issues - including over 150 from SOAP 1.1 and delivering evidence of rigorous implementations, the as produced for final review a real SOAP standard - SOAP 1.2."

SOAP 1.2 consists of the SOAP 1.2 messaging framework; SOAP 1.2 adjuncts, and a primer. The message framework provides rules for constructing SOAP messages; rules for processing a SOAP message, a framework to let developers use extensions inside and outside the SOAP envelope; and rules for specifying the exchange of SOAP messages over underlying protocols such as HTTP.

SOAP 1.2 adjuncts includes rules for representing remote procedure calls (RPCs); encoding SOAP messages; describing SOAP features; and SOAP bindings. It also provides a binding of SOAP to HTTP 1.1, allowing SOAP messages to be exchanged via the Web.

SOAP 1.2 has been sent to the W3C membership for final review, which closes on June 7.

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