Can Tomcat Be Used as a Web Server?


Larry Thompson

Can Tomcat Be Used as a Web Server?

If you are new to web development, you may have come across the term “Tomcat” and wondered what it is and if it can be used as a web server. In short, the answer is yes!

Apache Tomcat, often referred to simply as Tomcat, can indeed function as a web server. Let’s delve deeper into this topic to understand how Tomcat can be utilized in this capacity.

What is Apache Tomcat?

Apache Tomcat is an open-source Java Servlet Container developed by the Apache Software Foundation. It is designed to execute Java servlets and render JavaServer Pages (JSP) files, making it an essential component for running Java-based web applications. Originally created by James Duncan Davidson in 1999, Tomcat has gained widespread popularity due to its robustness and ease of use.

Tomcat vs. Traditional Web Servers

Before we explore using Tomcat as a web server, let’s understand the difference between traditional web servers like Apache HTTP Server (often referred to as Apache) and application servers like Tomcat.

Traditional Web Servers:

  • Primarily responsible for serving static content such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript files, images, etc.
  • Supports various protocols like HTTP and HTTPS
  • An example of a traditional web server is Apache HTTP Server

Application Servers:

  • In addition to serving static content, application servers also handle dynamic content generation through servlets and JSPs.
  • Supports Java-related technologies such as Servlet API and JSP.
  • An example of an application server is Apache Tomcat.

Now that we have a clear distinction between the two, let’s explore how Tomcat can be used as a web server.

Using Tomcat as a Web Server

While Tomcat is primarily an application server, it can be configured to serve static web content in addition to executing Java-based dynamic content. By default, Tomcat runs on port 8080 and serves web applications deployed within its container. However, with some configuration changes, it can also serve static files like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript directly.

To configure Tomcat as a web server:

  1. Step 1: Access the server.xml file located in the <Tomcat_Home>/conf/ directory.
  2. Step 2: Locate the <Engine> element and add the following line within it:
<Host name="localhost" appBase="webapps" unpackWARs="true" autoDeploy="true">
    <Context path="" docBase="your_static_content_directory" />

Note: Replace your_static_content_directory with the path to your static content folder.

  1. Step 3: Restart the Tomcat server for changes to take effect.

Congratulations! You have successfully configured Tomcat to serve static content. You can now access your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files through the Tomcat server using URLs like http://localhost:8080/your_file.html.


Tomcat is not only an excellent Java Servlet Container but can also be used as a web server to serve static content. Its flexibility and ease of configuration make it a popular choice among developers. By following the steps mentioned above, you can easily configure Tomcat to handle both dynamic and static content for your web applications.

Remember, Tomcat’s versatility as an application server and web server makes it a powerful tool in your web development arsenal.

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