BACK TO SCHOOL ON WEB INTERFACES9/06/2010 5:19 AM Eastern
AS THE MAGIC CARPET THAT IS THE “WEB-BASED INTERFACE” CONtinues
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
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
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.)