Web Services Description Language

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What Does Web Services Description Language Mean?

Web Services Description Language (WSDL) is an XML-based language that describes Web services and their uses.


A WSDL document is a concrete description of a Web service that includes both abstract and concrete elements.

WSDL describes the abstract functionality of a service and provides a framework for describing the concrete details of a service description. This formal description is required in order for distributed systems and communication between software applications.

Techopedia Explains Web Services Description Language

WSDL 1.0 was introduced in 2000 and was developed through a collaboration by Microsoft, IBM and Ariba. The language was formalized in 2001 as version 1.1.

WSDL 2.0 is substantially different from version 1.1 and was endorsed as a W3C recommendation in 2007. Most third-party vendors, however, have not adapted their offerings to support WSDL 2.0. For example, the Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WS-BPEL) uses WSDL 1.1.

A WSDL 2.0 service description indicates how potential clients should interact with the described service. A WSDL document describes two aspects of a Web service: one abstract and one concrete.

In the description that follows, WSDL elements are italicized.

  1. At an abstract level, the Web service is described in terms of the messages it sends and receives. An operation associates a message exchange pattern with one or more messages. A message exchange pattern identifies the sequence and cardinality of messages sent and/or received as well as who they are logically sent to and/or received from. An interface groups operations together without committing to transport or wire format.
  2. At a concrete level, a binding specifies transport and wire format details for one or more interfaces. An endpoint associates a network address with a binding. And finally, a service groups together endpoints that implement a common interface.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.