REST Questions

Paul Prescod paulp@ActiveState.com
Sat, 25 Aug 2001 11:08:27 -0700


Clay Shirky wrote:
> 
>...
> 
> See, this is where I get off the REST bus. I say "Can you do REST over
> SMTP?", knowing that there is a big move in the Web Services world to
> use both SMTP and Jabber as transport mechanisms and wondering if that
> is incompatible with RESTfulness, and you say "Yes, sure you can", by
> which you mean "No, absolutely not, what you need to do instead is
> replace SMTP with HTTP."

The terminology is interesting...if the Web's central technologies are
URIs and HTTP then is a service provided without using either (e.g. XML
over Jabber) a "Web Service" or just a "Jabber Service". REST advocates
might ask that those who choose not to use the Web infrastructure
refrain from implying that they are.

The installed base for SMTP is huge but few structured information
exchange services are deployed over it. For instance, if you want to
tell someone at Google to index your site you would either use a web
form (HTTP) or email a human being there. For some reason nobody ever
thought to set up a structured email submission system. Will SOAP change
this situation? 

Under what circumstances is SMTP a better choice? I do believe there are
a few such situations -- in particular when the only "interface" you
have to a Web service is Pine and a once-a-day village-wide network
connection. But I do not think that authoring SOAP in Eudora for use
over SMTP is really realistic. The one piece of software that every UI
device has installed today is the browser, not the mail client. You use
the browser to emulate the mail client, not the other way around.

Clay, could you make the case for deploying new web services over SMTP
and Jabber?
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