What is Web Service?

Web service is a standardized medium to propagate communication between the client and server applications on the World Wide Web. A web service is a software module that is designed to perform a certain set of tasks.

  • The web services can be searched for over the network and can also be invoked accordingly.
  • When invoked, the web service would be able to provide the functionality to the client, which invokes that web service.

How WebServices Work?

Web Service Architecture Diagram

The above diagram shows a very simplistic view of how a web service would actually work. The client would invoke a series of web service calls via requests to a server which would host the actual web service.

These requests are made through what is known as remote procedure calls. Remote Procedure Calls(RPC) are calls made to methods which are hosted by the relevant web service.

As an example, Amazon provides a web service that provides prices for products sold online via amazon.com. The front end or presentation layer can be in .Net or Java but either programming language would have the ability to communicate with the web service.

The main component of a web service is the data which is transferred between the client and the server, and that is XML. XML (Extensible markup language) is a counterpart to HTML and easy to understand the intermediate language that is understood by many programming languages.

So when applications talk to each other, they actually talk in XML. This provides a common platform for application developed in various programming languages to talk to each other.

Web services use something known as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) for sending the XML data between applications. The data is sent over normal HTTP. The data which is sent from the web service to the application is called a SOAP message. The SOAP message is nothing but an XML document. Since the document is written in XML, the client application calling the web service can be written in any programming language.

Why do you need a Web Service?

Modern day business applications use variety of programming platforms to develop web-based applications. Some applications may be developed in Java, others in .Net, while some other in Angular JS, Node.js, etc.

Most often than not, these heterogeneous applications need some sort of communication to happen between them. Since they are built using different development languages, it becomes really difficult to ensure accurate communication between applications.

Here is where web services come in. Web services provide a common platform that allows multiple applications built on various programming languages to have the ability to communicate with each other.

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