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What is SOAP?

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SOAP is an XML-based protocol for exchanging information between computers. Although SOAP can be used in a variety of messaging systems and can be delivered via a variety of transport protocols, the main focus of SOAP is Remote Procedure Calls (RPC) transported via HTTP. Like XML-RPC, SOAP is platform independent, and therefore enables diverse applications to communicate with one another.

To get a quick sense of SOAP, here is a sample SOAP request to a weather service (with the HTTP Headers omitted):

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
<SOAP-ENV:Envelope
xmlns:SOAP-ENV="http://www.w3.org/2001/09/soap-envelope"
xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
<SOAP-ENV:Body>
<ns1:getWeather
xmlns:ns1="urn:examples:weatherservice"
SOAP-ENV:encodingStyle=" http://www.w3.org/2001/09/soap-encoding
<zipcode xsi:type="xsd:string">10016</zipcode>
</ns1:getWeather>
</SOAP-ENV:Body>
</SOAP-ENV:Envelope>

As you can see, the request is slightly more complicated than XML-RPC and makes use of both XML namespaces and XML Schemas. Much like XML-RPC, however, the body of the request specifies both a method name (getWeather), and a list of parameters (zipcode).

Here is a sample SOAP response from the weather service:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
<SOAP-ENV:Envelope
xmlns:SOAP-ENV="http://www.w3.org/2001/09/soap-envelope"
xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
<SOAP-ENV:Body>
<ns1:getWeatherResponse
xmlns:ns1="urn:examples:weatherservice"
SOAP-ENV:encodingStyle="http://www.w3.org/2001/09/soap-encoding">
<return xsi:type="xsd:int">65</return>
</ns1:getWeatherResponse>
</SOAP-ENV:Body>
</SOAP-ENV:Envelope>

The response indicates a single integer return value (the current temperature).
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is in the process of creating a SOAP standard. The latest working draft is designated as SOAP 1.2, and the specification is now broken into two parts. Part 1 describes the SOAP messaging framework and envelope specification. Part 2 describes the SOAP encoding rules, the SOAP-RPC convention, and HTTP binding details.

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