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.
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.
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.
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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).
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.
A web service is a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network. It has an interface described in a machine-processable format (specifically WSDL). Other systems interact with the web service in a manner prescribed by its description using SOAP-messages, typically conveyed using HTTP with an XML serialization in conjunction with other web-related standards.
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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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W3C Web Services may use SOAP over HTTP protocol, allowing less costly (more efficient) interactions over the Internet than via proprietary solutions like EDI/B2B. Besides SOAP over HTTP, Web services can also be implemented on other reliable transport mechanisms like FTP. In a 2002 document, the Web Services Architecture Working Group defined a Web services architecture, requiring a standardized implementation of a "Web service."