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Bruce Eckel said SOAP sucks?

I've been told that Bruce Eckel said SOAP sucks.  Harumpf.  Well, that's not very gentlemanly of him, is it now?

In any case, I'm up to the challenge... if Bruce has an open mind, I'm willing to 'splain a thing or two to him.  And if he wants some light reading to bring him up to speed, I have a few essays on the left over there...

And while I'm at it also looks like he needs a lesson or two in permalinks and RSS feeds.

"sucks" may be too strong, but realistically, if you compare SOAP to CORBA, I think you have to admit that CORBA is more efficient, method calls happen faster, and IDL is just easier to produce than WSDL.  More or less, SOAP is a re-invention of something we already have, only done less efficiently....

Posted by James Robertson at

I was thinking the same thing this morning while working on the CommentAPI implementation. I completely understand why using XML is important and valuable but when it comes to SOAP, WSDL and the umpteen WS-* specs it is much harder for me to see how they should matter to me.

I've read enough intro to SOAP articles to understand what it is but fail to see why one should use it instead of just shipping application specific XML around. Your CommentAPI implementation is a prime example of this. Why should I choose to send an RSS item wrapped up in a SOAP envelope when I can just send an RSS item?

Hopefully one of Tim, Don or Aaron Skonnard will write some MSDN article that makes stuff like this clear to grunts like me.

Posted by Dare Obasanjo at

Some poeple are misquoting or puytting words in Bruce's mouth

Lets be blunt SOAP is just another version of XML-RPC with some more functins or features..

To paraphrase Bruce:  he is asking if xml-rpc works why we need SOAP..

Whic is a very different question

Posted by Fred Grott at

XML-RPC was just a half-way point that got out because Dave Winer
wanted to ship a product. It's an early fork from SOAP.

Posted by Iain at

Oh, cool.  Gang tackle.  I was hoping to deal with people one at a time (starting with Bruce), but here goes... with brief answers due to the number of simultaneous issues.

James: agreed, if you control both ends of the wire and your abstractions don't leak.

Dare: did you follow why preview should be a SOAP header?

Fred: exhibit A: Metaweblog API.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Interesting that you talk about putting words in Bruce's mouth then go ahead and do the same thing. I don't see any mention of XML-RPC in comparison to SOAP on his weblog.

As on why one needs SOAP when XML-RPC exists, better people than I have discussed the significant limitations of XML-RPC outside of simple use cases.

My question and that which Bruce seems to be asking is if you can just send XML around why bother wrapping it up in SOAP and picking up all the other XML Web Services baggage.

PS: Sam, you need to add RPC to the list of words your spell checker should accept.

Posted by Dare Obasanjo at

Iain: it still is a valid question.

Dare: it's my weblog and RPC should get underlined in red.  ;-)

Posted by Sam Ruby at

As for XML-RPC vs. SOAP, check out for the history from someone who was there.

I have the 1998 SOAP spec on my laptop - it looks astonishingly like XML-RPC. We moved away from that encoding style because it was unnatural for a lot of applications.  See for a great analysis of this.

Also, Bruce forgot to mention that iterators were also in the ICON programming language (that's where I first encountered them) - alas, not everything good was invented by Guido :-)

Posted by Don Box at

Re controlling both ends of the wire - most usage of SOAP I'm seeing is intra-company.  I simply don't see the value over CORBA in that arena.

Inter-company, you are probably right

Posted by James Robertson at

I have the following written in my notes from the keynote at the Web Services DevCon in Boston:

If you control both ends of the wire
SOAP is probably not for you.

Note: The keynote was titled "Interop Is All" and given by Sam.

Posted by Matt Croydon at

Hi Matt!

And that slide is still online.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

I can speak directly towards the "both ends of the wire" part because this is where SOAP succeeds for my employer where every distributed computing model before it has failed.  In fact, it's smoothed over interop problems both intra and (more importantly) inter company.  That said, we're not using SOAP in a very interesting way and could probably just drop the SOAP envelope altogether and not lose much.  There are use cases where the SOAP envelope is important, but we haven't implemented them, and when you're passing XML instead of serialized objects, the SOAP frameworks tend to get in the way.

Posted by Gordon Weakliem at

if you know CORBA, or & Apollo DCE Sunos RPC for that matter, SOAP does seem to have hints of the suck nature, though not as much XML-RPC.

However, if you'e ever worked on a big CORBA app, with >1 team involved, and throw in a bit of maintenance/integration with legacy cruft, you'll soon discover you can't control both ends of the wire, even in an organisation. Even if you control them now, five years from now your decision to use COM+, RMI, EJB whatever will be ridiculed by your successors.

A well designed service is not an RPC interface, it is a service that is robust, scaleable (you can steal a lot of the HTTP scaling infrastructure) and (esp if you doc/lit), flexible.

Now, where does SOAP suck?

-there is too much bias to SOAP-as-RPC,
blocking calls, & tight coupling; JAX-RPC is an example of this.

This means people are writing brittle code, that just isn;t going to work over long haul links, or against intermittent network failures, let alone work into the future.

-Interop is in its infancy. One issue is that real(tm) remote object infrastructures have set people's expectations in a way that doesn't map to
loose coupled systems. The other is the new spec stack will lead to divergence; we haven't even got consistency of binary data, let alone signatures, routing, transactions...

-The computing industry in pushing people into writing web services, and now people who can't write a VB or Java app to save its window position to a persistent store are now trying to write web services.

You can see the latter on the axis user mail list, where users complain that they are getting a 'connection refused' error, AxisFault 'HttpResponse:404' or 'ClassNotFoundException'and can somebody please help them. These people should not be helped. There is an informal mountaineering rule that you never help incompetents up a mountain to killed higher up, only down, to get out alive. Wannabe SOAP developers should be told to work through Bruce's TIJ book, TCP Illustrated, RFC2516, Hunter's Servlets, Box and Skonnard on XML and then maybe write a first web service.

I think we should make the download for Axis1.1 dependent on passing a competency test on a web form. I volunteer to write it. I wrote the new install instructions for Axis to scare people off after all.

Posted by Steve Loughran at

If you get the basic idea of web services but are still looking to get your head around SOAP (I know I am) the lively discussion currently taking place in Sam Ruby's comment section looks like a great place to ...

Pingback from Simon Willison: Archive for 4th April 2003


Steve, it's good to see youhear buddy! I'm stil recalling our mad dash to Starbucks in your rental at Chris's last Web Services DevCon _ will never drive with you again-)

Anyhow, where is your RSS feed on your blog? -)

As to Bruce, all I'll say without getting nasty is that it doesn't suprise me in the least he doesn't get it.

Sam, Steve, Dare, Don - good going on the helpful facts and information

Posted by Sam Gentile at

Bruce Eckel said SOAP sucks?... [more]

Trackback from Sam Gentile's Blog


Whoa, said Keanu in a Matrix momemnt! Hit [back] on my post and look at the Exception. Sam, I'm not knowledegable enough to know if its us or you. Is it something I need to bring to Scott's attention?

Posted by Sam Gentile at

It's the trackback:ping value in your embedded RDF - it's rather than starting with http://

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at

Thank you Phil. I sent a mail off to Scott to have him take a look.

Posted by Sam Gentile at

SOAP, XML and Linux sucks

As JWZ pretty well summed it up: "Linux sucks. But Linux sucks less." Tim Bray says XML sucks, then retracts a bit. XML does suck, it just sucks less than the other options. Bruce Eckel says SOAP "sounds like it's a solution looking for a problem."...

Excerpt from john.beimler at

Control freaks

Don and Keith (who has a broken permalink) call me to task on my If you ever are in a position where you can control both ends of the wire... There are much better protocols than SOAP statement.  This statement is merely a device I use to get ...

Pingback from Sam Ruby: Control freaks


The Middle 70%

 Steve Loughran has a great quote on Sam Ruby's blog, in a thread about whether or not SOAP sucks: You can see the latter on the axis user mail list, where users complain that they are getting a 'connection refused' error, AxisFault...

Excerpt from CraigBlog at

XML is bloated...if you have a website (amazon perhaps) taking many requests for orders then soap messages are going to take much longer to process than something that is more specific with a smaller foot print!

Lets put it another way...a user goes to amazon to order a DVD but it takes to long for a response so he/she goes somewhere lost!

Performance is a key issue...The big players know this but still say that SOAP is the next big thing...why? because they invented it of coarse and it will make them money...especially on hardware upgrade in order to handle the extra bandwidth!!

SOAP is the worst messaging exchange format I have ever seen and I am amazed that so many professionals can make such a hash on a new protocol?!?

Posted by Colin Saxton at

XML is bloated...everyone should use SGML instead.  Or even better would be to just comma-separated lists.  I did that in a project for my high school programming class, and it worked great!  I was thinking in the shower just this morning that ASCII is such a waste.  I mean, it takes 7 bits to store one letter when there are only 26 letters in the alphabet.  I mean the English alpheabet, of course; are there others?  Ooh look, a beautiful butterfly just flew past my window.  And 8-bit ASCII is 14% more bloated than 7-bit ASCII!  I invented a new character encoding, it only uses 5 bits per character.  The math is a little tricky to extract it but I wrote a C# wrapper class that does all the work for you, and it's 28% more efficient than ASCII.  Can you believe the hormones they're putting in milk these days?  SOAP sucks.

Posted by Mark at

Why use SGML?  It's just as bloated as XML.  But why suggest XML and then talk about clever character encoding.  I am confused.

Posted by Johnny Jardin at

I invented a new character encoding, it only uses 5 bits per >character.  The math is a little tricky to extract it but I wrote a >C# wrapper class that does all the work for you, and it's 28% more >efficient than ASCII.

try to compress large text in your format and unicode32 - they will have almost same size
really misterious... :P

Posted by pce at

SOAP, XML and Linux sucks

As JWZ pretty well summed it up: "Linux sucks. But Linux sucks less." Tim Bray says XML sucks, then retracts a bit. XML does suck, it just sucks less than the other options. Bruce Eckel says SOAP "sounds like it's a solution looking for a problem."...

Excerpt from john.beimler: SOAP, XML and Linux sucks at

Yes soap does suck. Just look at the performance stats yourself. Why do we ever need a human-readable remote invocation protocol? Is the verbosity worth the cost?

Posted by Objectivist at

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