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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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Chapter 14. Automating Internet Components

The Internet groupware services—HTTP, SMTP, and NNTP—manifest themselves to users as browsers, mailreaders, and newsreaders. Because these same services can be driven by scripts that speak simple ASCII request/response protocols over TCP/IP sockets, interactive and batch modes are two sides of the same coin.

We’ve already seen a number of examples of this duality. In Chapter 8, we used web-client scripting to intercept and process the output of the Microsoft Index Server. In Chapter 9, we used a news server as a discussion component and a mail server as a message dispatcher. In Chapter 10, we saw another kind of duality—a Java servlet both provided a web API, used by other programs to import and export calendar data, and consumed a web API provided by a “todo” server.

We think of the Internet as a library of documents, but it’s also a library of software components. Some are microcomponents , like the Perl modules that you’ll download from CPAN if you decide to try out some of the examples in this book. Others are macrocomponents such as AltaVista, Yahoo!, or any Internet (or intranet) site that offers services accessible to browsers and scripts alike by way of a web API. Web sites are scriptable components just because they are web sites. And they’re made of microcomponents and macrocomponents that can exploit a rich assortment of other components, both local and remote, to do their work. The Internet makes distributed, component-based ...

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