A web service is something that a website chooses to offer to those who wish to read, update and/or delete data from your website. You might call it a "backdoor" to your data. Instead of presenting the data as part of a webpage it is provided in a pre-determined way where some of the more popular are XML and JSON. There are several ways to communicate with a webservice, some use SOAP, others have REST'ful web services, etc.
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W3C Web Services may use SOAP over HTTP protocol, allowing less costly (more efficient) 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 Web Services Architecture Working Group defined a Web services architecture, requiring a standardized implementation of a "Web service."