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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
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.
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.
Exposing Business Functionality on the network - A web service is a unit of managed code that provides some sort of functionality to client applications or end users. This functionality can be invoked over the HTTP protocol which means that it can also be invoked over the internet. Nowadays all applications are on the internet which makes the purpose of Web services more useful. That means the web service can be anywhere on the internet and provide the necessary functionality as required.
"All the standard Web Services works using following components:" ... the problem with this answer is that it suggests that web services do or must operate within the SOAP/WSDL mechanism. This is inaccurate. Representational State Transfer (REST) is another very popular paradigm for implementing web services. Some major websites have deprecated their SOAP services in favor of REST web services. – scottb Jul 7 '15 at 15:50
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