Sorry Jezelll, had to throw a downvote. This is not what I would consider 'plain english' :( I don't have a problem with the intent of your definition, but using words like 'operation', 'remote server', 'invoked' and 'specification' makes it hard for beginners to understand. See Mitchel Sellers answer as an example of 'plain english'. – Dhaust Jun 30 '09 at 23:53
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A web service is a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network. It has an interface described in a machine-processable format (specifically WSDL). Other systems interact with the web service in a manner prescribed by its description using SOAP-messages, typically conveyed using HTTP with an XML serialization in conjunction with other web-related standards.
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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.
Unlike traditional client/server models, such as a Web server/Web page system, Web services do not provide the user with a GUI. Web services instead share business logic, data and processes through a programmatic interface across a network. The applications interface, not the users. Developers can then add the Web service to a GUI (such as a Web page or an executable program) to offer specific functionality to users.