When computers learn to talk: A Web services primer

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When computers learn to talk: A Web services primer

“What are Web services? Why should you care?”

The McKinsey Quarterly, 2002 Number 1 (web exclusive)

Policy relevance:

In order to regulate the Internet, one needs to be abreast of the developments in the field and what they mean.

Main conclusions:

Web services:

  • are business and consumer applications delivered over the Internet that users can select and combine through almost any device (PCs, mobile phones)
  • have the potential for helping computers “talk” to one another more easily via its ‘lingua franca’ extensible mark up language (XML), which “tags” digital content in standardised formats;
  • implement the client-server model over the World Wide Web, managing the connection of different devices and making it easier to develop applications;
  • will make that for ease of access, passwords and other user information will be stored in ‘Universal user Profiles’ (UUP), but to succeed in this, service providers would have to win the trust of consumers and online partners: not an easy task;
  • would bring best-of-class offerings direct to the user’s desktop and new intermediaries may integrate these services from a number of different vendors;
  • cut the amount of time and money needed for systems integration thereby cutting the single biggest IT expense of most companies;
  • will change the way many companies do business by outsourcing non-core functions thereby creating increased fragmentation of value chains and industries as well as more narrowly focused companies;
  • are still in their infancy and still show more promise than results;
  • have their own rules and assumptions, conveyed through a sometimes bewildering terminology.

Significant hurdles remain, however, for web services to materialise:

  • key technical standards still haven’t been finished;
  • specific services and new service providers have yet to be defined;
  • questions such as consumer privacy and security remain unanswered.

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