The HyperText Computer (HTC) and the Windows Communication Foundation

As part of .NET 3.0 the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) is a unified programming model from Microsoft that delivers many of the benefits motivating the proposed HyperText Computer. Some of the key benefits of the WCF include: Replacing 7-8 different programming models with a single one, the programmer may interact with local and remote objects using the same language constructs, and WCF is designed to be flexible – it is not confined to using only HTTP as its network protocol. WCF is also designed to connect to other web services using the WS-* standards.

However, in my reading, the features of WCF differ in a few key ways to the proposed HTC. While the programming model of WCF replaces many other models from Microsoft and therefore may be described as “unified”, the WCF “plumbing” is quite visible. Programmers still have to choose to employ WCF technology. And through their choice of technology to influence the locus of execution. The vision of the HTC is that every resource is accessed using a network protocol and that therefore the programming model is a unity. This is discussed here.

Also, the possibility of extending the unification of the programming model to the user agent (browser) level does not seem to be in view for the WCF. The present situation (e.g. AJAX) where the server operates on one model and the client browser on a separate one forces programmers through their technology decisions to choose the location of processing and storage. As discussed here the proposed HTC suggests an alternative to browser hosted languages and a mechanism for location-of-processing decisions to be made at run time. The HTC, related to this, offers a mechanism for automatic code mobility which does not seem to be addressed by WCF.

These comments not withstanding, the WCF is a major achievement and step towards a future where programmers truly do have a single programming model. And … it is also an implemented reality!

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