SOAP 1.2 spec takes next step

An upcoming version of the Web services specification SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) has moved a step closer to finalization and may be completed by March, according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

W3C on Thursday announced that SOAP 1.2 has advanced to the “Candidate Recommendation” stage, meaning developers are now being called on to implement the proposed Web services specification.

SOAP 1.2, which features stronger XML support and error reporting as well as bug fixes, may reach the formal recommendation stage, the final stage of acceptance by W3C, by early March, according to W3C representative Janet Daly.

An earlier intellectual property issue in which two vendors, webMethods Inc. and Epicentric Inc., had not relinquished any rights to possible royalties due them for any use of their technologies in SOAP 1.2, has been at least partially resolved, according to Daly. W3C seeks for companies contributing technologies to relinquish royalty rights.

Epicentric, which was recently acquired by Vignette Corp., has waived royalty rights. WebMethods dropped out of the W3C XML Protocol Working Group, which is the working group developing SOAP 1.2. The company also said it has not identified any of its patents in the specification and that it is not claiming any specific patent rights “at this time,” Daly said.

Contacted afterward, a webMethods representative said the company was not commenting on the issue.

The functionality of Version 1.2 is essentially the same as the existing W3C standard, Version 1.1, Daly said.

“The advantage of 1.2 is that it may not necessarily be different features or functionalities, it’s the fact that this version has been tested by a broad range of implementers and has had more review than the five companies that originally worked on the 1.1 document,” Daly said. Those companies were Microsoft, IBM, UserLand, DevelopMentor, and Lotus. SOAP 1.1 was published in April 2000.

An analyst said SOAP 1.2 differs from Version 1.1 in that it is not steered primarily by only Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. “Although SOAP 1.2 involves a lot more players, if it wasn’t for Microsoft and IBM, SOAP wouldn’t be on the radar,” said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, in Boston. A highlight of Version 1.2 is XML Schema support, Schmelzer said.

SOAP is a three-part protocol. It features an envelope containing information about what is in a Web service message and how to process it; it has a set of rules for describing data types and a way of representing remote procedure calls and responses.

According to the W3C Web site, SOAP 1.2 is a lightweight protocol for exchanging structured information in a decentralized, distributed environment.

“It uses XML technologies to define an extensible messaging framework providing a message construct that can be exchanged over a variety of underlying protocols,” according to the site.

Also under development by W3C are an attachment feature for using SOAP 1.2 with attachments, as well as Version 1.2 test suites and usage scenarios, Daly said.