DPS907 notes – Thu Sep 4

Welcome to the web services course! This is our first session together.


What is a web service?

A web service is an application that runs on a web server, and is accessed programmatically.

This simple sentence contains a number of very important concepts and techniques, including:

  • HTTP is the protocol
  • A web service is defined by its application programming interface (API)
  • Humans don’t use a web service directly – instead, the application they are using creates and sends a request to the web service, and handles the response in a way that’s meaningful to the application they’re using


What’s the difference between a web app, and a web service?

These diagrams should help illustrate the difference.



Give me a brief history lesson on web services

With the rise of the web’s use and popularity in the 1990s, efforts were made to define and specify web services.

This led to the de facto standardization of SOAP XML web services. Often described as “big web services”, SOAP XML web services are the implementation of remote procedure calls on the web. This kind of web service typically has one specific endpoint address, and requestors must create and send a data package (which conforms to SOAP), and then process the response (which also conforms to SOAP).

However, other efforts took advantage of the web and its existing features and benefits. In other words, they simply followed the HTTP specification and its ex post facto architecture definition, to create true and pure web services. These kinds of web services, often termed “Web API”, exploded in use and popularity from about 2005 onwards, and are now the preferred design approach.

In this course, you will learn both (for maximum employment value). However, most of our work will use the modern web services.

Web services can be developed on any web-connected technology platform, and in any language. Web services are interoperable.


Are web services important?



Web services are vital for modern software architectures.

For all device platforms.


How do I start learning web services?

You must learn (more) about HTTP.

In class, we will discuss some HTTP topics, and refer to the overview on Wikipedia, and the official specification series, RFC 7230 to RFC 7235, which recently replaced RFC 2616.


Request, response 

HTTP is a typical Internet protocol that relies on an exchange of messages between a requestor and a responder. The messages are plain text, and must conform to a specific format.

An example of a request message is shown below. The resource at “/index.html” is being requested:

GET /index.html HTTP/1.1
Host: www.google.ca


An example of the response message is shown below. Some data has been removed to simplify the example. Notice the empty line in between the headers and the message body:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sun, 01 Sep 2013 16:29:52 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1

<!doctype html>
<html itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/WebPage">
<meta itemprop="image" content="/images/google_favicon_128.png">


HTTP requests used in this course

HTTP supports a number of request methods. We will use (at least) the following in this course:

  • GET – read/fetch a resource
  • POST – add to a resource (the resource is typically a collection)
  • PUT – modify an existing resource
  • DELETE – delete an existing resource
  • OPTIONS – ask for a list of request methods that are supported by a resource
  • HEAD – ask for the response headers for a resource


Get started with Fiddler

Fiddler is an HTTP inspector.

We will use Fiddler to interact with a web service.

It is installed on the College lab-room computers, and is also available from the Fiddler web site.


Interact with the Yahoo! weather web service 

In Fiddler, show the Composer tab.

Use it to call the Yahoo! weather web service, which delivers an XML document (that’s formatted to the RSS specification). An example URI, for Toronto‘s current weather, is:



Interact with the Apple iTunes Store “search” web service 

Use Fiddler to call the Apple iTunes Store “search” web service, which delivers a JSON document. An example URI, for all items from Yo-Yo Ma that include the word “oboe“, is:


Get started by creating a web service

We will use Visual Studio 2013 in this course to create web services.

Your professor will introduce the tooling, the “Web API” project type, and the process of creating a web service.

Fiddler will be used to interact with the web service.














  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: