A web service is a collection of open protocols and standards used for exchanging data between applications or systems. Software applications written in various programming languages and running on various platforms can use web services to exchange data over computer networks like the Internet in a manner similar to inter-process communication on a single computer. This interoperability (e.g., between Java and Python, or Windows and Linux applications) is due to the use of open standards (XML, SOAP, HTTP).
Web services are a type of internet software that use standardized messaging protocols and are made available from an application service provider’s web server for use by a client or other web-based programs. Web services can range from major services such as storage management or customer relationship management (CRM) down to much more limited services such as the furnishing of a stock quote or the checking of bids for an auction item. The term is sometimes also referred to as application services.
Web services are almost like normal a web page. The difference is that they are formatted to make it very easy for a program to pull data from the page, to the point of probably not using any HTML. They generally also are more reliable as to the consistency of the format, may use a different formal process to define the content such soap or raw xml, and there is often also a descriptor document that formally defines the structure for the data.

A web service is a collection of open protocols and standards used for exchanging data between applications or systems. Software applications written in various programming languages and running on various platforms can use web services to exchange data over computer networks like the Internet in a manner similar to inter-process communication on a single computer. This interoperability (e.g., between Java and Python, or Windows and Linux applications) is due to the use of open standards (XML, SOAP, HTTP).
Loosely Coupled – Loosely coupled means that the client and the web service are not bound to each other, which means that even if the web service changes over time, it should not change the way the client calls the web service. Adopting a loosely coupled architecture tends to make software systems more manageable and allows simpler integration between different systems.
A web service always hides the internal complexity of the service to its clients. For an example, an airliner which is selling tickets via a third party portal is only gathering end user info via a web service and in return it is providing ticket. The portal which is selling ticket doesn't have to bother about the internal complexity of the airlines ticket reservation systems.
The term Web services 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 used to tag the data, SOAP is used to transfer the data, WSDL is used for describing the services available and UDDI is used for listing what services are available. Used primarily as a means for businesses to communicate with each other and with clients, Web services allow organizations to communicate data without intimate knowledge of each other's IT systems behind the firewall.
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.

Web services are almost like normal a web page. The difference is that they are formatted to make it very easy for a program to pull data from the page, to the point of probably not using any HTML. They generally also are more reliable as to the consistency of the format, may use a different formal process to define the content such soap or raw xml, and there is often also a descriptor document that formally defines the structure for the data.


Sorry Jezelll, had to throw a downvote. This is not what I would consider 'plain english' :( I don't have a problem with the intent of your definition, but using words like 'operation', 'remote server', 'invoked' and 'specification' makes it hard for beginners to understand. See Mitchel Sellers answer as an example of 'plain english'. – Dhaust Jun 30 '09 at 23:53
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