Web services allow different organizations or applications from multiple sources to communicate without the need to share sensitive data or IT infrastructure. All information is instead shared through a programmatic interface across a network. This interface can then be added to a GUI, like a web page, to deliver specific functionality to users. Due to this, web services are not specific to one programming language or operating system and do not require the use of browsers or HTML.
A web service is any piece of software that makes itself available over the internet and uses a standardized XML messaging system. XML is used to encode all communications to a web service. For example, a client invokes a web service by sending an XML message, then waits for a corresponding XML response. As all communication is in XML, web services are not tied to any one operating system or programming language—Java can talk with Perl; Windows applications can talk with Unix applications.
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.
In practice, a Web service commonly provides an object-oriented Web-based interface to a database server, utilized for example by another Web server, or by a mobile app, that provides a user interface to the end-user. Many organizations that provide data in formatted HTML pages will also provide that data on their server as XML or JSON, often through a Web service to allow syndication, for example, Wikipedia's Export. Another application offered to the end-user may be a mashup, where a Web server consumes several Web services at different machines and compiles the content into one user interface.
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
Many organizations use multiple software systems for management.[citation needed] Different software systems often need to exchange data with each other, and a Web service is a method of communication that allows two software systems to exchange this data over the Internet. The software system that requests data is called a service requester, whereas the software system that would process the request and provide the data is called a service provider.
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.

Functional and non-functional testing of Web services is done with the help of WSDL parsing. Regression testing is performed by identifying the changes made to upgrade software. Web service regression testing needs can be categorized in three different ways, namely, changes in WSDL, changes in the code, and selective re-testing of operations. We can capture the above three needs in three intermediate forms of Subset WSDL,[7] namely, Difference WSDL (DWSDL), Unit WSDL (UWSDL), and Reduced WSDL (RWSDL), respectively. These three Subset WSDLs are then combined to form Combined WSDL (CWSDL) that is further used for regression testing of the Web service. This will help in Automated Web Service Change Management (AWSCM),[10] by performing the selection of the relevant test cases to construct a reduced test suite from the old test suite. [11]
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 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 message parameter in the WSDL definition is used to define the different data elements for each operation performed by the web service. So in the example above, we have 2 messages which can be exchanged between the web service and the client application, one is the "TutorialRequest", and the other is the "TutorialResponse" operation. The TutorialRequest contains an element called "TutorialID" which is of the type string. Similarly, the TutorialResponse operation contains an element called "TutorialName" which is also a type string. 

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