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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.
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.
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.