Translation Please

Back To School On Web Interfaces

9/07/2010 8:19 AM

As the magic carpet that is the “Web-based interface” continue to glide into video-industry workflows, the world of geeky tech acronyms grows even geekier.

This week’s batch: “SOAP” (pronounced as the sudsy object) and “SAML” (rhymes with camel).

SOAP stands for “Simple Object Access Protocol.” That’s Web-speak for a “messaging protocol” (a conversation between machines that both machines understand), which lets Web applications exchange information.

In cable’s migration to Internet-protocol video, SOAP tends to show up around the “connected device” landscape, especially as operators work through how to put some video-centric features “in the cloud” (meaning not in the device).

A common example is the “remote user interface,” or RUI. That’s tech-speak for a guide, but one that’s stored higher up in the network and delivered as needed by the devices requesting it.

This matters, because these days the end device isn’t always a set-top attached to a TV. The end screen might be a PC, a tablet or a smart phone, all of which have different capabilities in terms of displaying a stream of video.

The message that starts that flow of information between the screen and the subscription-TV service is the kind of thing that might use SOAP. Generally speaking, SOAP is one way to make a “legacy back office” component able to exchange information with a Web-based application. It’s a bridge from now to next.

Likewise for SAML, which stands for Security Assertion Markup Language. SAML usually pops up in conversations about “TV Everywhere” and “the four anys.”

That’s because it exists to solve the “single sign-on” conundrum: When you sign on as a subscriber to see an episode of Hot in Cleveland on TV Land, then leave that site, do some other stuff, and later go to Lifetime to watch an episode of Project Runway, chances are high that you’ll be irritated if you have to log in again.

SAML relies on SOAP to run the messages of authentication (are you who you say you are) and authorization (do you subscribe to what you seek) back and forth.

SOAP and SAML are both based on XML - Extensible Markup Language, the heavy lifter of the Internet.

All of this must be ridiculously easy to implement, given how frequently the words “you just” front the Web’s acronym soup. An excerpt from a recent conversation with a Web smarty:” You just do it as a Web service over a SOAP interface.”

Now all we need is the ROPE. Then the SAML can send over the SOAP on a ROPE.

(I can hear the groans even from here.)

November

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