Without prejudice to other definitions I would say that a web service is software system that allows for inter-operable machine-to-machine / application-to-application interaction over a network. This generic definitions would also help consider REST architectures to be a web service as they provide similar functionality albeit being an architectural style unlike the SOAP which is a fully defined protocol.
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.
^ Mockapetris, P.V. (November 1987). "Domain names - concepts and facilities" (HTML). IETF Documents. IETF. doi:10.17487/RFC1034. Retrieved 24 July 2017. Relative names are either taken relative to a well known origin, or to a list of domains used as a search list. Relative names appear mostly at the user interface, where their interpretation varies from implementation to implementation, and in master files, where they are relative to a single origin domain name. The most common interpretation uses the root "." as either the single origin or as one of the members of the search list, so a multi-label relative name is often one where the trailing dot has been omitted to save typing.

Web services are used for a variety of applications, but the most common is for reusing code and connecting existing programs. The web service method can help developers segment applications into components that can be used and reused for various needs. For example, more than one program might need a conversion tool or a reporting function. This is possible due to web services’ universal communication protocols.


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