What is the Web service protocol stack?
The Web service protocol stack is an evolving set of protocols used to define, discover, and implement Web services. The core protocol stack consists of four layers:
Service Transport: This layer is responsible for transporting messages between applications. Currently, this includes HTTP, SMTP, FTP, and newer protocols, such as Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol (BEEP).
XML Messaging: This layer is responsible for encoding messages in a common XML format so that messages can be understood at either end. Currently, this includes XML-RPC and SOAP.
Service Description: This layer is responsible for describing the public interface to a specific Web service. Currently, service description is handled via the WSDL.
Service Discovery: This layer is responsible for centralizing services into a common registry, and providing easy publish/find functionality. Currently, service discovery is handled via the UDDI.
Beyond the essentials of XML-RPC, SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI, the Web service protocol stack includes a whole zoo of newer, evolving protocols. These include WSFL (Web Services Flow Language), SOAP-DSIG (SOAP Security Extensions: Digital Signature), and USML (UDDI Search Markup Language). For an overview of these protocols, check out Pavel Kulchenko's article, Web Services Acronyms, Demystified, on XML.com.
Fortunately, you do not need to understand the full protocol stack to get started with Web services. Assuming you already know the basics of HTTP, it is best to start at the XML Messaging layer and work your way up.