• What is SOAP?

    First and foremost, SOAP is not the same as soap so let's not confuse the two. Somebody came up with this acronym and it stuck. SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol but I don't think SOAP is very simple at least at first. You can read about it at Wikipedia but there are plenty of other places on the web to find out about SOAP and you can just Google it or click here and we'll Google it for you!

    In order to use SOAP you will need access to a WSDL file. You might be saying "WSDL?" what the heck is that? Well it isn't a radio station east of the Mississippi. WSDL stands for Web Services Description Language and WSLD is just XML. If you are saying "XML?" then maybe this service isn't for you . All of the big guys have WSDL files to access their services. eBay has a WSDL file and so do Amazon.com and Google.
    XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language and really it is just a way to save information. In the 'old days' of computer programming when a programmer had to save some information (like a MS Word document) to the disk then the programmer just made up some format that suited his needs and saved the contents to a file in what we call a 'proprietary format'. This really means a format that his program can understand but that no other program can understand.

    XML changes that. There is no more need for programmers to make up formats to store data. Now programmers can save information in XML and any other program that can read XML can understand the file format. It's like Esperanto for computers!

    XML is really popular because it bridges a problem that has existed for years. That problem is "How do you store information in a file that is easy for a person to read AND easy for a computer to read?". The reason XML answers that question is because first of all it is just a text file so it is easy for humans to read. Secondly, the format follows very strict rules. Computers really like that because they are big on rules.

    Now that you know a little bit about XML let's talk a little bit more about WSDL. WSDL is a 'language' that tells a client how to make API (application programming interface) calls to a server program. WSDL uses the XML format to create this 'contract' between a client and server.

    Looking at a WSDL file can be intimidating. My advice to you is don't look at it... at least directly. There are many good tools out there to look at WSDL. I built the fbk.wsdl file using Liquid XML and there is a free trial version available on their website.

    Another really good tool to use when playing around with SOAP is a product called SOAPUI (SOAP User Interface) and you can download a trial version of that program here or get the free version here.

    Once you have these tools then WSDL gets a lot easier.
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