Bringing Web Services to the End User

A new standards effort known as WSUI (Web Services User Interface) aims to help in the transition to Web Services.

“WSUI describes mechanisms for how to rapidly plug in a Web service, bundle presentation templates and have it self-describe and display itself,” explains Ed Anuff, chief strategy officer for Epicentric.
Of late, Epicentric – a maker of corporate portal platforms — has been working behind the scenes to tweak the standard and bring it to the public eye.

Whilst recent protocols like SOAP succeeded in regulating the communications between distributed applications, a standard for presenting a Web service to end users has heretofore been lacking.
“A lot of the work around Web services has been solely orientated at giving developers the tools to access remote application functions over the Internet,” notes Epicentric’s chief strategy officer, Ed Anuff. “What WSUI is about is making those services accessible to the end user.”

Anuff believes that WSUI is crucial to the successful propagation of Web Services and asserts that the protocol will work uniformly across browsers, operating systems, devices and tool environments, including Java and .NET.

One ostensible advantage of WSUI is that it incorporates device-independent technologies such as XSLT (eXtensible Style Language Transformations) and XHTML. This will ostensibly enable it to be used to deliver services to cell phones and handhelds as well as desktop browsers.

Heartened by the success of the widely backed SOAP protocol (which, in its original incarnation as XML-RPC, was also the work of a coalition of smaller vendors), Epicentric and other WSUI backers like Documentum and Intraspect hope that their standard will also find wide acceptance. As such, they have been talking to IBM and SUN and may soon have the backing of some major industry players.

A working draft of the WSUI specification and a reference implementation are currently available on the WSUI site.

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