What Is Web Service Description Language?

What Is Web Service Description Language?

The Web Description Language is an XML-based interface description language that is used for describing the functionality offered by a web service. A WSDL description of a web service (also referred to as a WSDL file) provides a machine-readable description of how the service can be called, what parameters it expects, and what data structures it returns. It thus serves a roughly similar purpose as a method signature in a programming language.

The current version of WSDL is WSDL 2.0. The meaning of the acronym has changed from version 1.1 where the D stood for Definition.

The WSDL describes services as collections of network endpoints, or ports. The WSDL specification provides an XML format for documents for this purpose. The abstract definitions of ports and messages are separated from their concrete use or instance, allowing the reuse of these definitions. A port is defined by associating a network address with a reusable binding, and a collection of ports defines a service. Messages are abstract descriptions of the data being exchanged, and port types are abstract collections of supported operations. The concrete protocol and data format specifications for a particular port type constitutes a reusable binding, where the operations and messages are then bound to a concrete network protocol and message format. In this way, WSDL describes the public interface to the Web service.

WSDL is often used in combination with SOAP and an XML Schema to provide Web services over the Internet. A client program connecting to a Web service can read the WSDL file to determine what operations are available on the server. Any special datatypes used are embedded in the WSDL file in the form of XML Schema. The client can then use SOAP to actually call one of the operations listed in the WSDL file using XML or HTTP.

The current version of the specification is 2.0; version 1.1 has not been endorsed by the W3C but version 2.0 is a W3C recommendation. WSDL 1.2 was renamed WSDL 2.0 because of its substantial differences from WSDL 1.1. By accepting binding to all the HTTP request methods (not only GET and POST as in version 1.1), the WSDL 2.0 specification offers better support for RESTful web services, and is much simpler to implement. However support for this specification is still poor in software development kits for Web Services which often offer tools only for WSDL 1.1.

Furthermore, the latest version (version 2.0) of the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) only supports WSDL 1.1.

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