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Last updated 2017-08-09


Learn about web services for web development

web service is a service offered by an electronic device to another electronic device, communicating with each other via the World Wide Web.

In a Web service, Web technology such as HTTP, originally designed for human-to-machine communication, is utilized for machine-to-machine communication, more specifically for transferring machine readable file formats such as XML and JSON.

In practice, the web service typically provides an object-oriented web-based interface to a database server, utilized for example by another web server, or by a mobile application, that provides a user interface to the end user.

Another common 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.

The W3C defines a web service generally as:

A web service is a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network.

— W3C, Web Services Glossary

Web services may use SOAP over HTTP protocol, allowing less costly 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 W3C Web Services Architecture Working Group defined a Web Services Architecture, requiring a standardized implementation of a "web service." In this:

It [Web Service] 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.

— W3C, Web Services Glossary