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9.1. What Are Web Services?

In a general sense, web services are programs you can access over the Web. In their broadest definition, tools like Google, Amazon, Mapquest, and other web-based applications are certainly web services. More typically, web services, as opposed to the regular Web, are about program-to-program communication. Web sites can make information available to other programs, and many are using XML to spare the other programs the difficulties of processing HTML. Over the last three years, web services has developed into a specialty of its own, built on a protocol called SOAP.

SOAP—formerly the Simple Object Access Protocol, but now an acronym without an official expansion—uses an XML vocabulary and a set of rules for sending XML over HTTP. ( HTTP, the HyperText Transfer Protocol, is the protocol at the heart of the Web, most commonly used to transfer HTML from servers to clients.) SOAP is most frequently used as a framework for sending remote procedure calls (RPC) between programs, and that's how the examples in this chapter will use it. The Microsoft Office Web Services Toolkit creates code that makes Word or Excel a client application, capable of calling SOAP-based services on other computers.


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