In 1993 the U.S. Department of Commerce, in conjunction with several public and private entities, created InterNIC to maintain a central database that contains all the registered domain names and the associated IP addresses in the U.S. (other countries maintain their own NICs (Network Information Centers) -- there's a link below that discusses Canada's system, for example). Network Solutions, a member of InterNIC, was chosen to administer and maintain the growing number of Internet domain names and IP addresses. This central database is copied to Top Level Domain (TLD) servers around the world and creates the primary routing tables used by every computer that connects to the Internet.
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.
What is common for all web services is that they are the machine-readable equivelant to the webpages the site otherwise offers. This means that others who wish to use the data can send a request to get certain data back that is easy to parse and use. Some sites may require you to provide a username/password in the request, for sensitive data, while other sites allow anyone to extract whatever data they might need.
A directory called UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) defines which software system should be contacted for which type of data. So when one software system needs one particular report/data, it would go to the UDDI and find out which other systems it can contact for receiving that data. Once the software system finds out which other systems it should contact, it would then contact that system using a special protocol called SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). The service provider system would first validate the data request by referring to the WSDL file, and then process the request and send the data under the SOAP protocol.
Unlike traditional client/server models, such as a Web server/Web page system, Web services do not provide the user with a GUI. Web services instead share business logic, data and processes through a programmatic interface across a network. The applications interface, not the users. Developers can then add the Web service to a GUI (such as a Web page or an executable program) to offer specific functionality to users.