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At Your Service(s)

The logic of XML drives the emerging web services market, too. The XML-based Simple Object Access Protocol (www.develop.com/soap/) facilitates information exchange in a decentralized, platform-independent network environment, accessing services, objects, and servers, and encoding, decoding, and processing messages. The underlying power of XML allows SOAP to cut through the complexity of multiple platforms and products.

SOAP is only one protocol in the burgeoning world of web services (www.w3.org/2002/ws/), a category that big companies like IBM (www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/webservices/) and Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/net/) hope to own. Small, independent, and open source developers offer a competing vision of decentralized web services, where no single company dominates. David Rosam defines web services like this:

Web Services are reusable software components based on XML and related protocols that enable near zero-cost interaction throughout the business ecosystem. They can be used internally for fast and low-cost application integration or made available to customers, suppliers, or partners over the Internet. [Source: www.dangerous-thinking.com/stories/2002/02/16/webServicesDefined.html]

XML drives most web services protocols, and its built-in interoperability is largely what makes such services possible. As long as XML is free to all, there's no reason that any company (however large and powerful) need dominate the category.

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