What is a Message?

A couple of recent blogs and messages I’ve seen prompted me to write this. They both suggest that a “SOAP message” is necessarily a “message”. I disagree.

When bound to an application protocol, a SOAP message/envelope is not a message because it doesn’t contain the necessary information with which to understand what it means. For example, a SOAP envelope which included a HR-XML resume is not a message, because it doesn’t say what is to be done with the resume; is it to be forwarded on to somebody else? Submitted as part of a job application? Meant to update an existing resume? This is where the envelope of the underlying protocol, such as HTTP comes in; the HTTP request line (method, URI, version), headers, and the body which includes the SOAP envelope, forms the entire message.

If HTTP were a transport protocol, then a SOAP envelope/message sent over HTTP would always be a message. But it isn’t, it’s an application protocol. And please don’t think this is nitpicking. Far from it, I believe it’s the single biggest misunderstanding that has lead us to where we are at with Web services (i.e. a mess). If people knew what an application protocol was, I think many more (not all, of course) would have thought twice about proceeding with Web services.

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