Dave Winer wrote to me this morning to ask if I still had a copy of the article formerly known as http://www.byte.com/documents/s=109/byt19990830s0001/, and before the CMS switcheroo that created that name, as http://www.byte.com/feature/BYT19990830S0001. The Wayback Machine, bless Brewster Kahle's soul, remembers, and so does Google.
It's amazing that this kind of spelunking is possible. When the Wayback Machine first appeared on the scene, in 2001, I hailed it as an antidote to the Web's growing amnesia. But the truth is that you have to be pretty motivated to find things this way, and to use what you find. Web content just isn't future-proofed, for the most part. So, although it seems crazy, I find myself periodically rehabilitating oldies but goodies. Here's the Exploring XML-RPC article that Dave requested, and here's the related Measuring Web Mindshare article that preceded it. (The complete list of my BYTE.com columns -- which I've republished because my freelance contract permits me to -- is here. But these two articles, which were "features," didn't make that list.)
I wonder what Dave will make of these articles now. Here are some of my reactions:
"An XML-RPC request can be as easily read and written by a human as by a program." A couple of years later, I noticed a pattern. I was happy to receive XML in response to requests, but those requests were often just simple URLs, not XML-RPC or SOAP calls. I wrote up my conclusions in a column called The power of the URL-line, and that RESTful theme has continued to resonate for me ever since.
"Does distributed computing have to be any harder than this? I don't think so." In retrospect, that was a useful thing to ask at the time. Of course it conveniently swept under the rug a whole set of issues which we now gather under the rubric "service-oriented architecture." Today I might rather ask: "Does distributed computing have to appear to be any harder than this?"
My dad used to be a Navy pilot, but whenever we're together at an airport, watching planes take off, he always marvels that it's possible for these aluminum elephants to fly -- even though he knows how the trick is done. In the same way, whenever I see how a string of characters (for example, http://www.blogshares.com/graph.php? blog=http%3A%2F%2Fweblog.infoworld.com%2Fudell%2F &type=value&large=true) can invoke some complex computation and display its results (in this case, my blog's current Blogshares valuation), I can't help but marvel. I know how the trick is done. But it never ceases to amaze me.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/04/04.html#a656