Writes Slates, in an introductory article:
A Web service is just a special type of Web page, but instead of being formatted prettily for the human eye, the page is formatted for a computer to read. The technology makes it easy for some Web site developers (like Amazon’s) to produce such a page and for other developers (like me) to retrieve the information therein. Suddenly any Web site (including yours) can display up-to-the-minute information from Amazon or Google, whether it be “people who bought my book also bought ….” or “the top 10 news stories on the Web.”
Web services are like LEGOs: They snap together in almost limitless combinations. As the big sites bring their Web services on board it’s easy to imagine your home page summarizing the items you have for sale on eBay, displaying whether you’re available to chat via AOL or Yahoo!, and mapping the current location of the airplane you’re on via Expedia.
For the Web consumer, it will quickly become unremarkable to see information and services from many providers combined in imaginative and useful ways. Suddenly no Web site is an island, and maybe no toaster either.