WS-REST Workshop Themes

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The First Workshop on RESTful Design (WS-REST, hur hur) was held at WWW 2010 in Raleigh last week. I attended and was also on the program committee. It was great to finally meet a number of folks from rest-discuss and the #rest IRC channel, along with seeing again folks working to improve REST in the trenches.

This turned into the mother of all blog posts, so I've chunked it up into a series. The tl;dr version of my workshop takeaways are the following:

- Investment in RESTful technology is growing, particularly with cloud and social computing. Enterprise and vendor investment has been low.

- Technical disagreements and arguments from authority are counter-productive, and seem to be ubiquitous. Now is the time to build stuff, and make stuff interoperate, not split hairs. On the other hand....

- In building interoperable systems, sometimes domain experts are wrong, sometimes they're right. Sometimes it's better to document and standardize what works, sometimes that's not good enough.

In short, interoperability is hard, REST doesn't change that, better get a good helmet if you're in a group specification or standards body these days. The most important thing is if you're going to willfully violate someone else's idea of "the Right Thing", then be explicit and honest about it, so that it can be discussed. (This is, in part, the saga of the HTML5 standards effort.)

- REST has become a buzzword among those that aren't architects and don't want to be architects. That means there needs to be better documentation, tools, and frameworks; most developers can't derive the right design from first principles. Most published RESTful APIs published today are not as interoperable as they could be; there will be a price to pay to maintain these.

- Having said that, for architects, progress has been slow in driving a true discipline for architecture, though there is some great work afoot to make this easier

- Hypermedia tends to be a somewhat jarring user experience to those that still love their desktop applications, especially when we build small protocols like OAuth , but fall back on HTML to do other pieces like authentication and authorization policy selection.

- Developers tend to love dynamic binding nature of REST so long as they're not the ones that have to maintain the client. We need a better way of handling dynamic binding (my suggestion is a work in progress) to hypermedia.

- It's high time to work on the "write side" of the web. We know that HTTP GET works well for interoperability. We have had less success with write actions, and need to think through interoperability there to a much greater degree than we have. Enterprise
integration use cases, for example, could really benefit from describing POST interfaces for domain application protocols. The best we have is WSDL, WADL, and generic forms like XForms, HTML Forms, and generic publishing containers like AtomPub. We can do better.

- You can use REST in the enterprise, for legacy integration, successfully.

- Peer to Peer systems quite achievable in RESTful systems. The nature of hypermedia itself is peer-to-peer. And minor extensions to HTTP can lead to full data propagation style systems.

- Progress is being made to formally describe a RESTful Semantic Web, one that leverages the formal descriptions of tuple spaces with the polyadic pi-calculus and extends them to RESTful architectures.

- While HTML 5 is progressing to be a rich platform for the next generation web, there's experimentation happening for alternatives. Some drive traditional desktop UIs through RESTful resources, others are describing mixed reality worlds.

I have some forthcoming blog posts musing on these themes.

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Part of my continuing series of reflections on the REST workshop at WWW 2010... Sam Ruby's keynote began with a call for technologists to back off the extreme positions often taken in technical arguments (likely because he's knee deep in... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Stu published on May 6, 2010 10:25 AM.

Building a RESTful Hypermedia Agent, Part 1 was the previous entry in this blog.

WS-REST musings: Investment in REST (it's not where we might have expected) is the next entry in this blog.

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