Web Services Description Language (WSDL): Should You Learn It?

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WSDL is an XML-based standard for describing a web service. A WSDL document (often itself just called a WSDL) describes the available functions of a web service, their expected arguments, and the data types for their return values. WSDLs are used by developers of client applications that consume XML-based web services.

Like all aspects of SOAP technology, WSDLs are not as straightforward as they at first seem. To help guide you through this complex topic, we have collected the best tutorials and other resources available.

WSDL Tutorials

Additional Learning Materials


WSDL Tools

  • Online WSDL Viewer and Validator allows you to compare and analyze WSDL documents in your browser.
  • WSDL to Java is a library from Apache that receives a WSDL document as input and then generates annotated Java code that implements the service it describes.
  • Wsdlpull is a C++ web services client library that includes a WSDL parser. It lets you invoke web services directly from the command line.
  • Wsdl2go is a command line tool that generates a Go application skeleton from a WSDL. Go developers should also check out Goat.


WSDL itself is too narrow a topic to warrant any full scale books. However, there are a number of excellent books on the larger topics of SOAP and XML-based web services. The following books include substantial coverage of WSDL.

Should I Learn WSDL?

The WSDL standard hasn't been update since 2002, and most of the current attention related to web services is on trendier topics like RESTful interfaces and JSON.

However, WSDL is still an important technology, and continues to be in heavy use in large enterprise and government software systems.

So, if you work in those industries, or develop using the tools those industries prefer — Java and .NET, primarily — then yes, you probably should. There's a strong overlap in those technologies with SOAP and XML.

Further Reading and Resources

We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to web development:

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Adam Michael Wood

About Adam Michael Wood

Adam specializes in developer documentation and tutorials. In addition to his writing here, he has authored engineering guides and other long-form technical manuals. Outside of work, Adam composes and performs liturgical music. He lives with his wife and children in California.


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