Web services have been wildly hyped for a long while now. Web services, and more specifically mashups, on which we focus here, are an area of enormous innovation. That innovation is manifested through new business models, new technologies, and clever new ways to use and share data. It's also an area where interoperability is the name of the game; the notion that people, data, and code can interact with other people, data, and code is the starting point for these services. The word interoperable is often in the definition of what a Web service is. The focus of this case study is the relationship between innovation in Web services applications and the interoperability (or interoperability potential) that we see. We conclude that the connection between interoperability and innovation is plain in this context. A wide variety of mashups that are useful to individuals, enterprises, and society as a whole have been enabled by interoperability in Web services, and could not exist without it. The drivers of interoperability have been market demand, private ordering, and work done in standards bodies. But the system by which it has come to pass is currently unstable, in the sense that a lawsuit or withdrawal of interoperable interfaces by a key stakeholder could set back innovation considerably. We consider several options for creating greater sustainability over time, such as license interoperability, open standards, and back-up in the form of traditional law enforcement.
This publication was supported in part by the Microsoft Corporation.