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The idea of abstracted, well-defined, and ubiquitously invokable services replacing proprietary interprocess communications has been a goal of system designers for a long time. The rise of Web services has led to a lot of misconceptions about how they can and cannot support the holy grail of a service-oriented architecture (SOA). This article seeks to put Web services in perspective, explaining their current capabilities and what industry can expect from them in the near term. It gives an overview of how technologies such as the Extensible Markup Language (XML), XML schemas, Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLT), the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), the Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and universal description, discovery, and integration (UDDI) fit into the equation for an SOA.