The potential for highly effective collaboration depends upon the ability to exchange relevant content rapidly and at a relatively low cost. Portals have made significant inroads in this area by providing frameworks for delivering content through personalized distribution, access controls and single points of access to a variety of corporate data sources. Portlets, or small, targeted programs designed to operate within a portal, are a common method for tying disparate systems together in a single portal interface. No one can argue with the success of portals as they exist today, and we should not expect the portlet model to change significantly. The real changes in the world of collaboration and content management will be well below the interface level of portals in the architecture of the services that provide the content for the user.

The first significant change is already widely acknowledged ­ the rise of Web services in distributed system design. The basic idea is that distributed applications use standard mechanisms for common interactions. For example, the simple object access protocol (SOAP) is used to invoke services and return results; the Web services definition language (WSDL) is used to describe services; and the universal description, discovery and integration (UDDI) protocol provides the means to publish, find and bind to different services. Together, these standards allow developers to package services and make them widely available.

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