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Summary form only given. An increasing number of distributed applications aim to provide services to users by interacting with a correspondingly growing set of data-intensive network services. To support such requirements, we believe that new services need to be customizable, applications need to be dynamically extensible, and both applications and services need to be able to adapt to variations in resource availability and demand. A comprehensive approach to building new distributed applications can facilitate this by considering the contents of the information flowing across the application and its services and by adopting a component-based model to application/service programming. It should provide for dynamic adaptation at multiple levels and points in the underlying platform; and, since the mapping of components to resources in dynamic environment is too complicated, it should relieve programmers of this task. We propose Active Streams, a middleware approach and its associated framework for building distributed applications and services that exhibit these characteristics.