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Web server

Web server definition

A web server is software or hardware that stores, processes, and delivers web pages to users by using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). When a user enters a URL or clicks on a link, the browser sends a request to the web server hosting the website. The server then processes this request, retrieves the appropriate content, and sends it back to the user's browser for display. The content can be static, like images and HTML files, or dynamic, generated on the fly.

See also: web server security, personal web server

History of web servers

The concept of the web server originated with the invention of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. The first web server, CERN httpd, was launched in 1991. It paved the way for the internet's rapid expansion.

Types of web servers

Web servers have different functions, and each type serves a specific purpose. Here are some examples:

  • Static web servers (or HTTP servers). They are fast and efficient for serving static content without any processing overhead. Ideal for websites that don't need user-specific content or real-time data. HTTP servers deliver the same content to every user. They use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files.
  • Dynamic web servers. They are essential for websites that need to display different content to every user. It can vary based on user preferences, sessions, or real-time data. Online shops, news portals, and social media platforms all use them. Dynamic web servers use server-side scripting languages (like PHP, Python, or Ruby) to generate content. They do it in real time based on user requests or interactions.
  • Application servers. They process business logic based on data input by the user. Application servers interact with the database, process the data, and send the results to the client. They are the backbone of web applications, ensuring correct and efficient data processing.
  • Proxy servers. They act as an intermediary between the user and another server. Proxy servers can cache content, filter requests, or support shared access for multiple users.