Over the past 10 years, the World Wide Web has exploded into billions of pages of content. Each day, the Web touches our lives either directly, as we surf the Web, or indirectly, as companies use the Web to provide the products and services we consume.
Although HTML continues to evolve, many developers will agree that a key force that drove the Web’s expansion was the ability for developers to automate web-page content using Active Server Pages. By automating content, Active Server Pages provided programmers with the ability to develop interactive e-commerce sites (such as Ebay and Amazon), information retrieval sites (such as Yahoo and Google), as well as sites that interacted with databases behind the scenes to place vast amounts of information within a user’s browser.
Web services are the Web’s next “big opportunity” for developers. You can think of a web service as a program that resides on a server that other programs can use to accomplish a specific result. The best way to understand how web services will change the way we use the Web is to envision having all the capabilities that users exploit on a site, such as the Yahoo! search engine, the Amazon shopping cart, or Southwest Airlines’ ticketing capabilities, readily available within programs developers create. In other words, rather than having users leave your website to perform search operations at Yahoo, or to buy a book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, your web pages (and the programs you create) can communicate with web services that reside on the remote sites so that your web pages (and programs) can offer the same functionality. In other words, by integrating support for a company’s web services into your applications, your programs can provide users with search-engine capabilities, e-commerce support, and much more!
If you design your website correctly, users may have no need to leave your site. By taking advantage of web services, your web pages can offer the identical functionality the users would encounter at remote sites anywhere on the Web. It isn’t difficult to imagine the immense power of web services, the promise they hold, or the great demands they will place on the skills and knowledge of Internet application developers.