ISO and IEC approve SOAP -- does anyone care?

Once red-hot technology has cooled and languished among developers during course of years-long standards process

In a move that seemed like a veritable blast from the past, the World Wide Web Consortium has announced that a bunch of Web services technologies, including SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) 1.2, were accepted as international standards by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

W3C made the announcement along with a joint technical committee from the other two standards organizations, emphasizing that the technologies would derive interoperability benefits gained from formal recognition of national standards bodies. But is anybody really listening to standards organizations all that much anymore?

SOAP, as you recall, was considered red-hot as a Web services mechanism around eight years ago. Among the other W3C Web services technologies being endorsed by ISO/IEC is MTOM (Message Transformation Optimization Mechanism), which also dates back to the middle of last decade.

The problem with SOAP and the so-called WS-* (remember those?) standards was so many of these started emerging that it became pretty much impossible to keep up with them all. But W3C still sees value in SOAP even if others have moved on to the more-palatable REST (Representational State Transfer) mechanism for Web services. SOAP, like XML, is widely used, especially in B2B communications, says W3C representative Ian Jacbos.

Still, we're hearing more about REST these days than SOAP. That's why Ruby on Rails framework founder David Heinemeier Hansson and the Rails development crew dropped SOAP from the framework in December 2007 in favor of REST. "SOAP fell out of favor years ago. The only people left on that scene are the people paid to design or use it," Hansson says.

Jacobs also points out the use of SOAP in SOA, but these days, SOA has taken a distant backseat to mobile computing in the minds of IT connoisseurs. iPads, iPhones, and Android are trendy; SOA is not. That's the way it is.

SOAP is not the only example of people not necessarily listening to a standards body. With HTML5, a W3C official last year had advised caution in implementing it in websites, arguing it was not quite ready for prime time. But HTML5 already had caught fire. The endorsement of Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs, who had championed the HTML upgrade for use with Apple's iOS devices, probably did more to make it a standard than all of W3C's efforts combined.

Although standards bodies like W3C focus on noble and difficult efforts, the marketplace is the ultimate decider of standards themselves. It certainly moves faster.

This story, "ISO and IEC approve SOAP -- does anyone care?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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