Microsoft and IBM web-control war finally silenced
Google and Facebook join a fresh fight
One era in web politics has passed with the closure of the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization just as another era has opened.
The WS-I said Wednesday after nearly 10 years it's winding down operations and merging its assets and maintenance of its specs to OASIS.
The group said the release of WS-I member approved final materials for Basic Profile (BP) 1.2 and 2.0, and Reliable Secure Profile (RSP) 1.0 fulfills its last milestone as an organization. "By publishing the final three profiles, WS-I marks the completion of its work," the group said.
Most will hardly have heard of the WS-I, yet the operation saw the last pitched battle by enterprise IT vendors to retain control a web quickly slipping out from their control.
WS-I was led by IBM and Microsoft but dressed up as an industry group. It was built so that IBM and Microsoft could retain control of their desktop and server platforms while ensuring these platforms' grew in an increasingly open world. SOAP, WSDL, UDDI and XML were the bridges between these worlds, and IBM and Microsoft positioned themselves as the architects of what those bridges should look like.
IBM and Microsoft in the early 2000s devised a roadmap of WS-* specs covering how they believed apps and data should talk and be exchanged on the web. The pair then set about filling in that roadmap. IBM and Microsoft would announce a spec with other, chosen vendors specializing in a given space - such as WS-Security with Verisign or WS-BPEL with BEA Systems, SAP and Siebel - and then submit it to a standards group, invariably OASIS. WS-I was not a standard group but provided profiles and tools to let people test their web-services implementation.
The IBM and Microsoft roadmap defined a modular and interoperable family of WS* specs, operating as a framework and at a component level.
The then still great Sun Microsystems had no place in this vision. Microsoft didn't care for Java and it saw no reason why anybody shouldn't be happy with .NET. For IBM, it was the dawn of a pissing match with Sun over who should become the de-facto leader of Java.
The WS-I was announced in February 2002 with an opening line up of 53 middleware, integration, tools and ERP vendors big and small, plus some major consumers of enterprise technology. Yes, this was truly a broad group united with a single goal. Just one thing was missing. Sun - the company that created Java, which was being used by millions of developers.
Why? It emerged Bill Gates, then Microsoft chairman, and said he could live with the WS-I if: "We have the positioning clearly in our favor. In particular, Sun not being one of the movers/announcers/founding members." At that time, Microsoft was not a great joiner of things that drove interoperability so participating in the WS-I was a major departure.
Gates' company wanted the WS-I to be constructed in such as way that it was as unpalatable to Sun as possible. That suited IBM as it tried to assert control over Java, and so IBM and Microsoft tried to carve up the web and exclude the only other company with enough of a vested interest in what was happening and the sheer size to stop them. Sun only clawed its way back in by submitting to elections to the WS-I board a year later in 2003 with tiny WebMethods. Yes, that was embarrassing. It was meant to be.