W3C Web Services Constraints and Capabilities Workshop

Someone who said he was new to the W3C put the question best: “Why are we even talking about the Semantic Web in a workshop on Web services?”
The answer, of course, is that this is the W3C, and that’s how things work. The Semantic Web represents a significant activity within the W3C, and the Workshop presentations and discussions included significant input from folks involved in that activity. (The constraints and capabilities workshop is also known as the policy workshop.)
The trouble with the Semantic Web, however, as another attendee put it, is that it hasn’t achieved industrial acceptance. As elegant and appropriate a solution based on RDF might be for expressing policy, Web services software vendors do not implement RDF and could not propose it to their customers.
Thus the discussion tended to clearly identify the positions of those in favor of starting a working group based on the WS-Policy set of specifications (most Web services software vendors) and the positions in favor of expanding the definition of policy and considering expressions of policy in languages other than XML (i.e. Semantic Web proponents).
Under W3C process, the results of the Workshop discussion will be evaluated by the W3C team as the W3C considers the possibility of initiating a new area of work.
It seemed as if everyone could understand and support the requirement for standardizing metadata expressions of policy for the so-called “qualities of service,” including such traditional middleware features as security, reliability and transactions. Some difference of opinion emerged over what was called “higher level” or business policies, such as “if the bank account was opened in 2003, apply one set of rules, if it was opened in 2004, another” and so on. This somewhat boils down to a difference of opinion as to whether the expression of policy should be as simple declarative or complex rules.
In the end, everyone who attended seemed to agree that policy represents a significant area of work that the W3C should undertake. I think so, too, as Rebecca Bergersen said in our position paper and presentation yesterday.
What I worry about, though, is that we’ll end up discussing the same issues raised in the Workshop over and over again in any possible working group, despite the likely starting point of WS-Policy.

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