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What are Web Services?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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Web services are web-based software applications that exchange data with other web-based applications. Open, Extensible Markup Language (XML) standard applications and various other protocols are used for such exchanges. In their original capacities, these services were used in the interactions of larger, private networks. Today, however, they include interactions over the Internet as well.

Integral to web services, XML is a web document description language. XML is used to describe webpage content using the application of concealed tags and identifying labels. This method of classifying web data is extremely effective, making web content quite easy to identify, analyze, and exchange.

Web services are useful in linking applications operating on different network platforms, hardware, software, and databases, performing critical functions for many businesses. For instance, they may be used to provide optimal interaction between certain business functions and important applications shared with an organization's customers, partners, and vendors. These services are also useful for combining software and services from different companies for the purpose of providing a seamlessly integrated service.

Web services offer many benefits, including, but not limited to, easy comprehension. Processes and data are often text-based to ensure they are as simple as possible for developers to understand. Thanks to the access afforded by XML, developers dealing with a wide range of technologies are able to get in on using web services.

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Developers have relied on other technologies in the past. Unlike some of the previously employed technologies, however, web services are considered easy to command. They even have good levels of support across Unix and Windows systems.

Services of this kind may rely on numerous different protocols for the exchange of data. Such protocols include HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) may be used as well.

Another benefit of these services, as opposed to other technologies, involves firewalls. With web services, there is no need to change the firewall filtering system. This is because a web service, using HTTP, can work relatively easily through most commonly employed firewall-security measures.

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aggie1991
Post 3

There are a lot of free Web Services available for the public to use -- two that I have found particularly helpful are ASP.net -- I use it to look at stock exchange information -- and Authorize.net, which you can actually use to process credit card payments, which is great if you're a small online merchant (like me).

triglyc
Post 2

I have worked on a number of web services examples using Cold Fusion. This lets me to tap into applications running Java, Perl and ASP without having to work directly with the application owners and programmers -- it's a total lifesaver! I would highly recommend anyone getting into the tech field to get used to using web services.

mutsy
Post 1

I used to work for a company that used secure tokens for web services testing so that they could authenticate users.

It offered the company a secure way to allow users into a private network. The login would involve a different number every time in order to ensure optimum security of the network.

Some companies offered a hard token which is a physical token that you carry around with you or a software token that is installed onto your system.

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