A Web service involves a service provider and a service requester (client). Because Web services feature language transparency, it doesn’t matter whether the underlying system that provides the service is written in Java while the client is written in Perl, Python or Ruby. For example, through Web services a Windows server can interact with a Linux server or serve an application to computer desktops, laptops or smart phones and other mobile devices over the World Wide Web.
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The term "Web service" describes a standardized way of integrating Web-based applications using the XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI open standards over an Internet Protocol backbone. XML is the data format used to contain the data and provide metadata around it, SOAP is used to transfer the data, WSDL is used for describing the services available and UDDI lists what services are available.
SOAP is known as a transport-independent messaging protocol. SOAP is based on transferring XML data as SOAP Messages. Each message has something which is known as an XML document. Only the structure of the XML document follows a specific pattern, but not the content. The best part of Web services and SOAP is that its all sent via HTTP, which is the standard web protocol.
Web services use something known as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) for sending the XML data between applications. The data is sent over normal HTTP. The data which is sent from the web service to the application is called a SOAP message. The SOAP message is nothing but an XML document. Since the document is written in XML, the client application calling the web service can be written in any programming language.