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XML Web services are the building blocks in the move to distributed computing on the Internet.
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What Is an XML Web Service?

The Fundamental Building Blocks in Distrubuting Computing on the Internet.

XML Web services are the fundamental building blocks in the move to distributed computing on the Internet. Open standards and the focus on communication and collaboration among people and applications have created an environment where XML Web services are becoming the platform for application integration. Applications are constructed using multiple XML Web services from various sources that work together regardless of where they reside or how they were implemented.

There are probably as many definitions of XML Web Service as there are companies building them, but almost all definitions have these things in common:

  • XML Web Services expose useful functionality to Web users through a standard Web protocol. In most cases, the protocol used is SOAP.
  • XML Web services provide a way to describe their interfaces in enough detail to allow a user to build a client application to talk to them. This description is usually provided in an XML document called a Web Services Description Language (WSDL) document.
  • XML Web services are registered so that potential users can find them easily. This is done with Universal Discovery Description and Integration (UDDI).

Exposing existing applications as XML Web services will allow users to build new, more powerful applications that use XML Web services as building blocks. For example, a user might develop a purchasing application to automatically obtain price information from a variety of vendors, allow the user to select a vendor, submit the order and then track the shipment until it is received. The vendor application, in addition to exposing its services on the Web, might in turn use XML Web services to check the customer's credit, charge the customer's account and set up the shipment with a shipping company.

In the future, some of the most interesting XML Web services will support applications that use the Web to do things that can't be done today. For example, one of the services that XML Web Services would make possible is a calendar service. If your dentist and mechanic exposed their calendars through this XML Web service, you could schedule appointments with them on line or they could schedule appointments for cleaning and routine maintenance directly in your calendar if you like. With a little imagination, you can envision hundreds of applications that can be built once you have the ability to program the Web.

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