Simple gets used

More of Bosworth. It is worth thinking about MARC and Z39.50 in the context of this entry. MARC will take a long time to change? How soon will SRU replace Z39.50, or will it? Again, worth quoting at length.

In the same way, I see two diametrically opposed tendencies in the model for exchanging information between programs today:
On the one hand we have RSS 2.0 or Atom. The documents that are based on these formats are growing like a bay weed. Nobody really cares which one is used because they are largely interoperable. Both are essentially lists of links to content with interesting associated metadata. Both enable a model for capturing reputation, filtering, stand-off annotation, and so on. There was an abortive attempt to impose a rich abstract analytic formality on this community under the aegis of RDF and RSS 1.0. It failed. It failed because it was really too abstract, too formal, and altogether too hard to be useful to the shock troops just trying to get the job done. Instead RSS 2.0 and Atom have prevailed and are used these days to put together talk shows and play lists (podcasting) photo albums (Flickr), schedules for events, lists of interesting content, news, shopping specials, and so on. There is a killer app for it, Blogreaders/RSS Viewers. Anyone can play. It is becoming the easy sloppy lingua franca by which information flows over the web. As it flows, it is filtered, aggregated, extended, and even converted, like water flowing from streams to rivers down to great estuaries. It is something one can get directly using a URL over HTTP. It takes one line of code in most languages to fetch it. It is a world that Google and Yahoo are happily adjusting to, as media centric, as malleable, as flexible and chaotic, and as simple and consumer-focused as they are.[Adam Bosworth’s Weblog: ISCOC04 Talk]

On the other hand we have the world of SOAP and WSDL and XML SCHEMA and WS_ROUTING and WS_POLICY and WS_SECURITY and WS_EVENTING and WS_ADDRESSING and WS_RELIABLEMESSAGING and attempts to formalize rich conversation models. Each spec is thicker and far more complex than the initial XML one. It is a world with which the IT departments of the corporations are profoundly comfortable. It appears to represent ironclad control. It appears to be auditable. It appears to be controllable. If the world of RSS is streams and rivers and estuaries, laden with silt picked up along the way, this is a world of Locks, Concrete Channels, Dams and Pure Water Filters. It is a world for experts, arcane, complex, and esoteric. The code written to process these messages is so early bound that it is precompiled from the WSDL’s and, as many have found, when it doesn’t work, no human can figure out why. The difference between HTTP, with its small number of simple verbs, and this world with its innumerable layers which must be composed together in Byzantine complexity cannot be overstated. It is, in short, a world only IBM and MSFT could love. And they do.
On the one hand we have Blogs and Photo Albums and Event Schedules and Favorites and Ratings and News Feeds. On the other we have CRM and ERP and BPO and all sorts of enterprise oriented 3 letter acronyms.[Adam Bosworth’s Weblog: ISCOC04 Talk]

One thought on “Simple gets used”

  1. Great excerpt. I’ve long listed “needless complexity” as a “technology killer”. One of the key reasons why RSS has been so successful is its complete simplicity. I’m _happy_ that the RSS hijacking attempt by the RDF crowd failed. To me, RDF is the epitome of what I’m talking about — complexity that does no useful work; or perhaps more accurately, complexity for which no purpose yet exists. What is the motivation for really complex markup that might be used sometime in the future to establish relationships between items…or might not?

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