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Loosely Coupled weblog

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Loosely Coupled - the book
Loosely Coupled - The Missing Pieces of Web Services is not the official book of the Loosely Coupled website, but it's as close as we're likely to get to having one for some time. I've been very privileged to have witnessed the chapter-by-chapter evolution of Doug Kaye's masterpiece over the past ten months or so, having been invited to act as one of the book's reviewers. I had to suppress a wry smile when Doug announced his chosen title to us all back in November and his reasons for selecting it: "Of all the concepts associated with web services, I've come to believe that loose coupling is both the most important and the most difficult to explain, hence my reasons for the title." My response was immediate: "Bing!"

Doug has done a grand job of explaining every one of the key concepts that need to be understood for a successful deployment of web services. I learnt a lot from reading and re-reading those chapters, and I'm sure that anyone else who needs to bend the technology to the needs of their business will find it just as illuminating. Doug has a crystal-clear, down-to-earth way of explaining important concepts, without ever losing sight of the real-world issues the technology is there to solve.

The book will be available next month, I understand, and Doug has put together a special pre-publication offer on his website for those who want to get hold of it as soon as it rolls off the presses. He's also made one of the chapters available as a PDF download so you can get a flavor of its style and scope. Although it's not the official 'book of the site', I have no hesitation in recommending it. If you're interested in the topics we write about here, then you will definitely enjoy having a copy of Doug's book on your bookshelf.
posted by Phil Wainewright 3:23 PM (GMT) | comments | link
Can big vendors give up tight coupling?
For all the lip service they pay to web services, it may not be in the best interests of big vendors to encourage their customers to move to a more loosely coupled IT architecture. This was an idea that came out quite strongly during the preparation of this week's article on web services integration by enterprise software vendors. Having assembled the research, it became quite evident that established vendors are just adding a web services veneer to their products, but they'd still much rather have customers base their IT around a single vendor's suite. Therefore, any enterprise that really does want to realize the benefits of web services will have to turn to a web services integration and management platform from one of the specialist startups, rather than relying on companies like SAP or Oracle to pave the way for them.

Several notable industry voices have sounded a similar note this week. Writing in a CNET column entitled The web services shell game, Iona Technologies CTO Eric Newcomer says that "today we sit at a fork in the road of Web services evolution," and goes on to warn that many vendors are trying to bend standards to favor their own platforms and intellectual property: "Established vendors quite naturally try to subjugate the greater good and customer benefit for their proprietary self-interests ... The market leaders are scared that comprehensively adopted Web services standards will change the economics of the software industry and make their investments in current products unsustainable."

Further fuel for this line of thinking came from a parting message for Microsoft penned by one of its top software developers, David Stutz, who has retired after more than ten years with the company to devote more energy to music and viniculture. Posted on his personal website, Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software argues that "Microsoft developer tools have yet to embrace the loosely coupled mindset that today's leading edge developers apply to work and play," and continues with thoughts such as these:

"Microsoft still builds the world's best client software, but the biggest opportunity is no longer the client. It still commands the biggest margin, but networked software will eventually eclipse client-only software ... If Microsoft is unable to innovate quickly enough, or to adapt to embrace network-based integration, the threat that it faces is the erosion of the economic value of software being caused by the open source software movement."

posted by Phil Wainewright 2:57 PM (GMT) | comments | link

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Google buys Pyra; blogging grows up
Google has bought Pyra Labs, the company behind the Blogger weblog publishing tool, it emerged last night. Appropriately, the story was broken in a weblog maintained by tech journalist and columnist Dan Gillmor, which previews a story that will run in today's San Jose Mercury News.

According to Pyra developer Steve Jenson, confirming the story in a posting to the Blogger Pro discussion group a few hours ago, "our plan[s] to get lots of new features out the door, new versions of the product, better support, etc, are only strengthened by this new development. One thing this will mean is lots more servers, more resources, and more coworkers to help out with everything! I'm really excited; things are going to rock. Heck, things are starting to rock already."

The news confirms blogging's shift into the mainstream, and coincides with several developments elsewhere that are testing the commercial potential of blogging's web-native publishing style:

  • A few weeks ago, Tony Perkins, the founder of Upside and later Red Herring — and who in November 1999 published a book (currently remaindered) predicting the bursting of the Internet bubble — went live with Always-On, an online media site that aims "to share control with [its] audience." It does this by allowing all members to publish opinions to their own weblogs, while maintaining a core of guest writers drawn from the community of "business geeks" targetted by the site. Interviewed about the venture by Fortune last week, Perkins said: "The bloggers have shown us the value of truly participatory media sites, so we’re just going to bundle it up and polish it and commercialize it ... This is the eBay-ization of media."

  • This week, Meg Hourihan, one of the original founders of Pyra, and Nick Denton, the founder of news syndication service, released some scant details of the Lafayette Project, "a weblog media project ... turning the weblog network into accessible media." Nick Denton has already been testing blogs as a platform for commercial ventures with Manhattan 'blogzine' Gawker and gadget-loving weblog Gizmodo.

  • It was also this week that Loosely Coupled added articles to its content mix, continuing its planned transition from a single weblog into a next-generation online media site, with weblogs, RSS feeds and other services contributing to a philosophy that I like to call "content-as-a-service".

The fact that various entrepreneurs with successful track records in online media are all converging on the weblog format suggests that they're onto something, and Google's participation only adds weight to that conclusion. What I find most interesting about Google's entry is the potential for cross-fertilization with some of its other initiatives, particularly the Google API and Google News.

The most important aspect of weblog publishing is not the ease of participation but the connectedness of it, and thus the ability to create value by making new, unanticipated links. In that respect, blogging is a poster child for the potential of service-oriented architectures and web services in general, and it is likely that the results of its innovations will ultimately have a direct effect on mainstream business practice.

PS: This site doesn't normally post on Sundays. I felt today's news warranted making an exception.
posted by Phil Wainewright 4:46 AM (GMT) | comments | link

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