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The web protocols you need to know (1)

June 24, 2010

Open Web Needs Open Protocols

The web is heading toward an open arena. The open protocol is necessary for the communication of different websites. In the following, several web communication protocols are reviewed.

(1) RSS (Really Simple Syndication)

RSS format is a technique, originally backed by Apple, Netscape, and O’Reilly Media in 1995 – 2000.  Later, it has been accepted as an open standard for data wrapping and communication with version, 0.9, 0.91,0.92, 0.94…, to 2.0.  Currently, RSS is probably the most often used web data protocol. RSS delivers content using the XML format. The detailed specification for the RSS 2.0 is available here.

(2) Atom

RSS has numerous limitations, for example, no Get, Put, Delete operations. Atom was regarded as an alternative to RSS, which can support Get, Put, Delete  operations. Atom has been backed by several companies Google, Apple. But, it has not been as popular as RSS. There is a good tutorial for Atom.

(3) SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)

SOAP is mainly designed for web service.  For example, you want to get a book information from Amazon, then you can call Amazon web service using SOAP.  SOAP is complex, since usually it has to rely on Remote Procedure Call (RPC) and Web Services Description Language.  Here is a simple  SOAP example.

(4) REST (Representational State Transfer)

REST is being endorsed by more companies and most open source projects, such as Sakai, NUXEO, Djangoproject, Netkernel, Cherrypy, Apache Solr, and many more. As matter of fact, for now, it is not easy to find an open source project, which does not support REST.  Many open source project for example Sakai 3.0 is built entirely based on REST. REST is also often called Restful by many programmers.

The reason for REST becoming so popular is that it is simpler than SOAP, and often more efficient than SOAP.  REST typically relies on JASON (JavaScript Object Notation). JASON has been strongly supported by most of web site companies and open source projects because of its simplicity and efficiency.

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