Web Services form a new, emerging paradigm to handle distributed access to resources over the Internet. There are platform independent standards (SOAP, WSDL), which make the developers’ task considerably easier. This article discusses how web services could be used in the context of the Virtual Observatory. We envisage a multi-layer architecture, with interoperating services. A well-designed lower layer consisting of simple, standard services implemented by most data providers will go a long way towards establishing a modular architecture. More complex applications can be built upon this core layer. We present two prototype applications, the SdssCutout and the SkyQuery as examples of this layered architecture.