Putting the magic in the machine since 1980.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Functional Web

REST Triangle of nouns, verbs, and content types. REST triangle of nouns, verbs, and content types.

There is a new short article by Steve Vinosky introducing his new (really, re-named) column: Welcome to the Functional Web. The new column acknowledges the domination of the new distributed (web) programming paradigms. As as note of background, I have been reading Steve for many years and I can attest that he knows what he is talking about. He is not one the many architecture astronauts that so often publish on academic journals. Steve actually builds systems. He knows what the real problems are, and often provides realistic solutions.

In this article he tells how after years of building distributed applications using Java, C++, and middleware technologies (SOAP, WSDL, CORBA, etc.) he has decided that a much better approach is to use functional programming languages (Erlang, Ruby, JavaScript) and RESTful services:

After pondering this problem for years, I finally concluded that our efforts were ultimately most impeded by the programming languages we chose. C++ and Java affected how we thought about problems, as well as the shapes of the solutions we came up with, far more deeply than I believe any of us realized. Add to that the verbosity and ceremony of these languages, and the net result is that we wrote, debugged, maintained, and extended a significant amount of code that wasn’t directly helping us get to our ultimate goal. We were fundamentally blocked by our inability to change our chosen programming languages into vehicles for application distribution

This is a very exciting time for those of us who are interested in multiagent and distributed programming. We are now seeing an explosion of REST services. You can barely browse the web without tripping on yet another REST API. There is a lot of data, there is a lot of functionality, there is a lot of possibility: how do we discover and create mashups automatically? how do we make it easy for programmers to integrate these various we services? how do we use this distributed data about individuals to create new services? emergent services?

In any case, I look forward to his upcoming columns, and his blog posts.

Update: Here are his presentation slides from a talk he gave on the history of RPC and why industry has moved on.

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