How Does a Java Web Server Work?


Angela Bailey

Java web servers are an essential component in the world of web development. They play a crucial role in processing and serving web requests, making it possible for users to access websites and web applications. In this article, we will dive into the inner workings of a Java web server and explore how it handles incoming requests and responds to them.

What is a Java Web Server?

A Java web server is a software application that runs on a server machine and listens for incoming HTTP requests. It acts as an intermediary between the client (usually a web browser) and the backend application or website. When a user accesses a URL, the web server receives the request, processes it, and returns the appropriate response.

Components of a Java Web Server

A typical Java web server consists of several key components:

  • HTTP Connector: This component is responsible for listening to incoming requests on a specific port (usually port 80 for HTTP or port 443 for HTTPS) and forwarding them to the appropriate handler.
  • Request Processor: When an HTTP request is received, the request processor takes care of parsing the request headers, extracting necessary information (such as URL, HTTP method, cookies, etc. ), and passing it on to the next stage of processing.
  • Dispatcher: The dispatcher determines which component or handler should process the incoming request based on its URL or other criteria.

    It acts as a traffic controller, directing requests to different parts of your application.

  • Handler: Handlers are responsible for processing specific types of requests. For example, you might have one handler for handling static files (e.g., HTML, CSS), another handler for dynamic content generation (e., JSP, Servlets), and so on.
  • Response Generator: Once a request is processed, the response generator takes the output from the handler and constructs an appropriate HTTP response. This includes setting response headers, writing response content, and sending it back to the client.

Processing an Incoming Request

When a Java web server receives an HTTP request, it goes through a series of steps to process and respond to it.

Step 1: Receiving the Request

The HTTP connector listens for incoming requests on a specific port. When a request arrives, it establishes a connection with the client and reads the request data sent over the network.

Step 2: Parsing the Request

The request processor parses the incoming request to extract important information such as the URL, HTTP method (GET, POST, etc.), headers, cookies, and any other relevant data. This information is then made available to subsequent stages of processing.

Step 3: Dispatching the Request

The dispatcher examines the URL or other criteria in order to determine which handler should process the incoming request. It routes the request accordingly by forwarding it to the appropriate handler component.

Step 4: Handling the Request

The handler component processes the incoming request based on its type. For example, if it’s a static file request, it retrieves and serves that file directly from disk. If it’s a dynamic content request (such as executing a JSP page or invoking a servlet), it delegates further processing to those components.

Step 5: Generating a Response

The response generator takes output from the handler and constructs an appropriate HTTP response. It sets the response headers, writes the response content, and prepares it for transmission back to the client.

Step 6: Sending the Response

Once the response is generated, it is sent back to the client over the network through the established connection. The client (web browser) receives the response and renders it accordingly.


A Java web server plays a critical role in handling incoming HTTP requests and serving appropriate responses. Understanding its components and how they work together is essential for building efficient and scalable web applications. By leveraging Java web servers, developers can create robust and dynamic websites that cater to user needs efficiently.

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