What is a Web Application?


Definition of Web Application in Network Encyclopedia.

Web Application, or Web App, is a collection of elements on a Web site that performs tasks over the internet.

Web Application Architecture
Web Application Architecture

Web applications are designed to run on Web servers (such as Internet Information Services or Apache) and use Web browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Chrome as the user interface. Web applications are typically client/server applications. For example, the ordering mechanism on an electronic commerce site is a Web application.

INDEX (on this page)


How a Web Application works

The user accesses a web application via a web browser or mobile application, triggering a request to the webserver over the Internet. Note that there may be security measures (i.e. firewalls or cloud access security brokers) and load balancers in

The webserver forwards the request to the web application server. The web application server performs the requested task – such as querying the database or processing the data – then generates the results of the requested data.

The web application server sends the results back to the webserver.

The webserver delivers the requested information to the client (desktop, mobile device, tablet, etc.) and the information appears on the user’s display.

Web Application advantages

  • Web applications run “inside” a browser; no complex installation is needed.
  • Web applications require very little disk space (or computing power) on the client. All the client does is display the data.
  • Web applications solve some of the “compatibility issues” (Windows, Mac, Linux); all that is needed is a browser.
  • In many cases, the data is stored remotely too. As with other cloud computing, this can allow easy communication and cooperation.
  • Help for communication and mail

Web Application disadvantages

  • Because they run inside a web browser, most web applications “look” very different to regular programs. The user experience or ease of use is different and some may dislike it.
  • Web applications need to be coded so they follow standards. Any browser that also follows the standard can be used. Small changes in a given browser’s implementation of a standard may prevent that browser from using the web application.
  • Web applications need a connection to the server where the application runs, all the time. The connection may need a certain bandwidth. Without an adequate connection, the application may not become usable; in the worst case, data may be lost.
  • Many applications are dependent on the server that hosts them. When the server is switched off, or the company goes bust, the application is no longer usable. Traditional applications continue to work.
  • The company offering the web application has complete control over it. This also means that they may launch a new version when they want to; the option to “skip” a less popular version does not exist.
  • In many cases, the data is stored remotely too. It may not be possible to export the data so that it can be used with another application.
  • The company can theoretically track anything the users do. This can cause privacy problems.
  • Interactivity: A website provides visual and text content that the user can see and read, but not affect in any way. In the case of a web application, the user can not only read the page content but also manipulate the data on this page. The interaction takes the form of a dialog: the user clicks a button or submits a form and gets a response from the page.
  • Authentication: That is the procedure that involves entering a user’s login and password to get access to the system. Web applications mostly require authentication, as they offer a much broader scope of options than websites. Authentication is not mandatory for informational websites.
  • Integration: It means bringing together different components to build a more comprehensive system. Both websites and web applications can be integrated with other software (CRM, ERP, etc.). Still, integration is more typical for web applications, because their complex functionality often requires interaction with extra systems.
Web Site / Web Applications development tools
Web Site / Web Applications development tools

Examples of Web Applications

Nowadays, almost every web site performs some kind of programmatic task that we call web application. But if you need some strong examples:

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