XML-RPC is a simple, portable way to make remote procedure calls over HTTP. It can be used with Perl, Java, Python, C, C++, PHP and many other programming languages. Implementations are available for Unix, Windows and the Macintosh.
Here's a short XML-RPC client written in Perl. (We use Ken MacLeod's Frontier::Client module.)
use Frontier::Client; $server = Frontier::Client->new(url => 'http://betty.userland.com/RPC2'); $name = $server->call('examples.getStateName', 41); print "$name\n";
When run, this program will connect to the remote server, get the state name, and print it. (State #41 should be South Dakota in this example.)
Here's the same program in Python. (This time, we use Fredrik Lundh's xmlrpclib.)
python> import xmlrpclib python> server = xmlrpclib.Server("http://betty.userland.com/RPC2") python> server.examples.getStateName(41) 'South Dakota'
In the following chapters, you'll learn how to write XML-RPC clients and servers in a variety of programming languages.
XML-RPC is described fully in Dave Winer's official specification. If you're curious, go ahead and take a look—it's a quick and straight-forward read.
On the wire, XML-RPC values are encoded as XML:
<methodCall> <methodName>sample.sumAndDifference</methodName> <params> <param><value><int>5</int></value></param> <param><value><int>3</int></value></param> </params> </methodCall>
This is verbose, but compresses readily. It's also faster than you might expect—according to measurements by Rick Blair, a round-trip XML-RPC call takes 3 milliseconds using Hannes Wallnöfer's Java implementation.
XML-RPC supports the following data types:
A signed, 32-bit integer.
An ASCII string, which may contain NULL bytes. (Actually, several XML-RPC implementations support Unicode, thanks to the underlying features of XML.)
Either true or false.
A double-precision floating point number. (Accuracy may be limited in some implementations.)
A date and time. Unfortunately, since XML-RPC forbids the use of timezones, this is very nearly useless.
Raw binary data of any length; encoded using Base64 on the wire. Very useful. (Some implementations don't like to receive zero bytes of data, though.)
An one-dimensional array of values. Individual values may be of any type.
A collection of key-value pairs. The keys are strings; the values may be of any type.
XML-RPC was inspired by two earlier protocols. The first is an anonymous RPC protocol designed by Dave Winer and announced in an old DaveNet essay. (This is why XML-RPC servers are often installed under /RPC2.) The other, more important inspiration was an early draft of the SOAP protocol.
A longer history of XML-RPC has been generously provided by Dave Winer. This also explains the relationship between XML-RPC and SOAP.