November 24, 2008

Embracing Registries of Web Services

Filed under: informatics,web of science — Duncan Hull @ 2:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Embracing by tanakwhoIf you travel back in time, to around 2002, it isn’t difficult to find people claiming that Web services were going to be the new silver bullet technology to create world peace, eradicate global poverty and finally make some sense of all the data produced by the human genome project. Over hyped? Just a bit. One of the many reasons none of these things happened, is it turned out to be much harder than anticipated to build centralised registries, where people could go to find Web services to perform a given task. Can service registries ever be built? Critics like Tim Bray at Sun Microsystems for example, have suggested that (quote) “registries are a fantasy”, but some already exist and there are more in the pipeline. This article briefly introduces some of them: Seekda, BioMOBY, the Embrace service registry and the Biocatalogue project.

1. Seekda

Seekda.com [1] is a Web services search engine which combines data on over 27,000 services from more than 7,000 different service providers. They have been around for a while, as a spin-off from the University of Innsbruck, Austria. They currently provide tools to search for, browse and register new services. Seekda also provides a list of most popular services, which gives an idea of what most people are using this registry for. They even have a blog too

2. Embrace service registry

Registries of arbitrary services are all well and good, but if you are a biomedical scientist of some kind, searching for more specific tools, it might be hard to find your needle in the seekda haystack. The Embrace Web service registry is part of a European project, the Embrace Network of Excellence involved in the use of information technology in the biomolecular sciences. At embraceregistry.net you can search, browse and register new biomolecular services, currently there are 74 different services, submitted by 46 different users.

3. BioMOBY

The BioMOBY project provides a registry of biological services and is a bit of a veteran, the project has been going since 2001. The current registry can be accessed using a range of different clients that can use the BioMOBY API. If you want to know more, take a look at the BioMOBY site or read all about BioMOBY in PubMed.

4. Biocatalogue

Biocatalogue.org provides a curated catalogue of Life Science Web Services, and is a joint project between the University of Manchester and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI). It will incorporate some of the features of all of the above registries, into one potentially über-registry for scientists. The catalogue is due for it’s first public release in 2009 but if you are interested in playing with the beta version, get in touch with the biocatalogue team for a sneak preview.

They spun a Web for me…

If you were expecting Web services to solve all the worlds trouble, then you’ve probably been sorely disappointed. But with service registries like Seekda, BioMOBY, Embrace and Biocatalogue, registering and finding services on the Web is possible and this should prevent some of the re-inventing the wheel that goes on especially when “new” biomedical services are created. The next step is getting all these services to work together, by plugging the output of one service into the input of another – now that’s a whole other story….


  1. Holger Lausen and Thomas Haselwanter Finding Web Services European Semantic Technology Conference, Vienna, Austria, June 2007
  2. WWW2008: The Great Firewall of China, Web services at Dubya Dubya Dubya 2008.

[Creative Commons Embrace picture by Tanakawho]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.


  1. Difficult post Duncan because of the disillusionment around the topic these days.
    I beg to differ from the general opinion, however, and claim that web services are a significant step forward towards the long-standing dream of AI. Bear with me a second and browse the link on the most popular web services. The weather seems the the most used one. But weather turns out to also the most common topic of conversation between human beings that do not know each other very well (just like heterogeneous services). We can safely conclude then, that machines are assuming distinctive intelligent traits, can’t we?

    Comment by Luigi Iannone — November 24, 2008 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

  2. […] Embrace and other service registries […]

    Pingback by Coast to Coast Bio Podcast » Blog Archive » Episode 6 : Web services, Instaseq and a blogging genomicist goes mainstream — December 11, 2008 @ 7:45 am | Reply

  3. Thanks for the mention Duncan, clearly an apt time for a round-up. I’d just like to add that one of the key features of the Embrace Registry is that it actually tests the services that are registered, rather than just cataloging them. We see this as quite a big movement forward from the traditional registry where in the past web services have gone to die. The process of regular testing has already helped a number of our users fix obscure bugs and errors in their services.

    Comment by Philip McDermott — December 12, 2008 @ 11:22 am | Reply

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