Posted:September 10, 2007

Astoria is Whistling Past the Graveyard to Irrelevance

I was pleased to see in my blog reader this morning a post from the Microsoft Astoria team on anticipated data formats for its pending formal release. I have been working on modeling Web data models and hoped to see some insight in the piece.

As the project team states,

The goal of Astoria is to make data available to loosely coupled systems for querying and manipulation. In order to do that we need to use protocols that define the interaction model between the producer and the consumer of that data, and of course we have to serialize the data in some form that all the involved parties understand. So protocols and formats are an important topic in our design process.

With that said, the team announced that the first formal Astoria release will support these three formats (with the single HTTP protocol):

  • ATOM / APP
  • JSON, the JavaScript Object Notation, and
  • Web3S, a Microsoft marketing wonder that as far as I know is only used by the MS Live group.

The later is a strange mapping of a tree data model to the record base of Astoria, in the process also abandoning a straight XML implementation in earlier versions.

Also notable for its absence is RDF (Resource Description Framework). The defensive response of the Astoria team to this absence speaks for itself:

The May [announcement on Astoria] included support for RDF. While we got positive comments about the fact we supported it, we didn't see any early user actually using it and we haven't seen a particular popular scenario where RDF was a must-have. So we are thinking that we may not include RDF as a format in the first release of Astoria, and focus on the other 3 formats (which are already a bunch from the development/testing perspective).

My personal take is that while I understand how RDF fits in the picture of the semantic web and related tools, the semantic web goes well beyond a particular format. The point is to have well-defined, derivable semantics from services. I believe that Astoria does this independently of the format being used. That, combined with the fact that we didn't see a strong demand for it, put RDF lower in our priority lists for formats.

There was a funny Glenn Ford movie from 1964 called “Advance to the Rear”. The problem is, this is not a movie, but the largest software company in the world taking two steps back for each one forward. Congratulations on alienating still further many thought leaders on the Web.

This is yet another stunning and lame attempt by Microsoft to replace open standards with proprietary ones. Get a clue, Redmond!