SOAP is officially dead, long live REST

Tags: python

When someone mentions “web services”, most of the people in my environment still automatically think SOAP instead of REST. Their perception, if they even know REST at all, is that REST is something simple (and perhaps pure) and that SOAP is what everyone is using and should be using for serious business.

At least, it is that way in my experience.

SOAP, the way I explain it, does most/all of the things that you can do with generic http/https/urls/files, only embedded in an xml document. So instead of a http GET request to https://some.server/some/thing/orders.xml, you’d have half a megabyte of XML telling some SOAP server at the other end what to do and how to do it and how to decrypt the embedded binary junk in some way.

So: just use generic http(s) GET/POST(/DELETE/PUT) calls to URLs to download/update/delete/change bits and pieces of json or xml. Preferrably with links inside them to further actions, just like you’d do in a regular webpage. And give everything its own URL. That’s more or less what REST is.

Yesterday’s announcement was that SOAP’s (or rather the whole huge whopping big so-called “WS-i” stack’s) organization would stop and be folded (in maintenance mode) into an existing standards organisation. Many took that to be the official end of the whole SOAP idea, for instance Simon Phipps.

Two choice quotes from his article:

All the work of WS-I was clearly doomed to lead a webless existence as part of the complexity big vendors encourage their corporate customers to use internally, ironically leading them to be locked-in to the tools the vendors supply to mitigate the complexity.


It took many, many years for that doom to be made reality. In the course of a decade of corporate politics in smoke-filled rooms, many fine and talented corporate standards engineers have spent countless hours perfecting a set of specifications that are expertly crafted and logically complete. Fine work, and many lessons learned, but sadly irrelevant to most of us. Goodbye, WS-I. I know and respect many of your participants, but I won’t mourn your passing.

To celebrate the passing-away, here’s a photo of soap bubbles on a medieval market in Utrecht:

Soap bubbles on a medieval market in Utrecht logo

About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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