What is the meaning of the tag? Should it be merged with, say, ?

I know that sometimes some technical people use the phrase "Web service" to refer to a particular method of building web applications, using WSDL, SOAP, etc., as standardized by W3C. Personally, I find this a confusing use of language, as many ordinary users understand the phrase "web service" to refer to a web site or web application that provides something useful to them.

Anyway, looking through the questions currently tagged with the , the usage seems to be all over the place. I don't see any evidence that it is being reserved for W3C-style "Web services" technology (with WSDL and all that other gunk). Instead, it seems to be used in the sense that ordinary users would expect -- effectively, as just a synonym for "web application".

Should we make a synonym of , and phase out the use of ? (If really necessary to have a tag for WSDL-style stuff, we could plausibly introduce a tag like ). What do you think?


3 Answers 3


It does seem that the tag was not used in a consistent fashion, but to be honest that is true about a great many tags...

I see there being a substantial difference between and - a web application is something you can browse to, and a web service is something you consume from another application (either a server application or client application).

Of the 34 questions tagged , about 1/3 do not fit that description, and should probably be retagged.

Of the rest, I see the tag as being very much needed, and specific. Note that I am not referring (nor is the tag) only to SOAP/WSDL Web Services, but any type of "web API" - This does include SOAP and WSDL, but also REST, JSON, XML RPC, and more.
There are substantial issues specifically to non-browsing Web calls (for lack of a non-recursive term), such as session management, SSL channels, and more.

However, I do agree that it seems the term web service is ambiguous, and could possibly stand to be changed.
How about ? (for the most part I dont yet think a tag specifically for WSDL is needed, though if it does it can easily exist in parallel...)
Though that too kinda sounds overly specific, if you're not already familiar with the term it sounds like a specific framework...

  • web-api looks reasonable to me! If we add a suitable tag description for web-api, seems like that could work. (Could also work leaving it be as web-service, if we edited the tag description.) Also in many cases they could be additionally tagged with more specific tags like rest, xml, json.
    – D.W.
    Sep 28, 2012 at 17:22
  • I agree about the more specific tags, too. I think Web-service can be a synonym for web-api, or vice versa - either way, there is a problem: as @Andrey referred to, both terms, while actually generic, have been co-opted into a specific camp / implementation - either SOAP or REST. While neither one is specifically accurate (IMO), there are large groups insisting one or the other. Ideally we could find a completely generic, non-controversial term that covers both SOAP and REST, and any other protocol.
    – AviD Mod
    Sep 29, 2012 at 20:11
  • @AviD according to wikipedia and this question both SOAP, REST etc. services are web services. So there is some consent what it means. Web API is more controversial: wiki.mozilla.org/WebAPI, asp.net/web-api Sep 29, 2012 at 21:42

From Is Web application a Web service?:

A web service is an application that provides services to consumers (web applications, thick clients, other services, mobile apps, etc.). Those services may provide data, perform some calculation or just about anything other than providing a UI.

A web application is generally used to build websites which have UI

So and are different things. They shouldn't be merged.

There was also a proposal by @AviD to rename into . But Web API is a subtype of web service that uses REST. So they are different things. If someone will decide that web apis deserve their own tag but web services don't, he should remove this tag from all non-RESTful questions.

Also Web API is quiet controversial as there some technologies named so.

  • 1
    I disagree about focusing only on REST. Just because REST proponents are pushing that generic term to mean only REST, that doesnt make it the case, just as web-service doesnt mean only SOAP even if their fans would like to make it so. Even on Wikipedia, the definition is ambiguous... Either way, it would be best if we can find a term that is not ambiguous, but if not I'm fine using one or the other in it's original, generic meaning.
    – AviD Mod
    Sep 29, 2012 at 20:14

In looking through the 34 questions tagged I can see 4 that I would actually say deserve the tag, and in my opinion none need it, as a more relevant tag may be or so my feeling would be to do a quick run through those 34 questions and remove the tag from them; using a more appropriate tag as required.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .