How Does a Web Application Run on a Server?


Scott Campbell

How Does a Web Application Run on a Server?

When you access a web application, have you ever wondered how it actually runs on the server? In this article, we will explore the process behind the scenes and understand how a web application works.

The Basics

Before diving into the technical details, let’s start with the basics. A web application is a software program that runs on a server and interacts with clients over the internet. It can be accessed through a web browser or a mobile app.

Client-Server Model

A web application follows the client-server model. This means that there are two main components involved: the client (usually your web browser) and the server (where the web application is hosted).

  • The Client: The client is responsible for sending requests to the server and displaying the response to the user. It can be any device with an internet connection, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet.
  • The Server: The server handles these requests and processes them to generate a response. It stores data, performs calculations, and executes business logic to provide dynamic content to the client.

Request-Response Cycle

When you click on a link or submit a form in your web browser, it sends an HTTP request to the server. Let’s look at some key steps involved in this request-response cycle:

  1. Sending Request: The client sends an HTTP request to access a specific URL or resource on the server. This request includes information like request type (GET, POST), headers, cookies, and parameters.
  2. Routing: The server receives the request and determines which part of the web application should handle it. This is done based on the URL and routing configuration.
  3. Processing Request: The server processes the request by executing code written in a server-side programming language like PHP, Python, or Java. This code interacts with databases, performs computations, and generates dynamic content.
  4. Generating Response: After processing the request, the server generates a response.

    This response includes an HTTP status code (e.g., 200 OK or 404 Not Found), headers (e., Content-Type), and a body that contains the actual content to be displayed.

  5. Sending Response: The server sends this response back to the client over the internet. It uses HTTP protocol to transmit the data.
  6. Displaying Response: Finally, the client receives the response and renders it in your web browser. It interprets HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to display text, images, forms, and other elements as intended by the web application.

The Role of Server-Side Technologies

To make a web application run on a server, we need server-side technologies. These technologies allow us to write code that can handle requests from clients and generate appropriate responses.

Some commonly used server-side technologies include:

  • PHP: PHP is a popular scripting language for web development. It has extensive support for database connectivity and offers various frameworks like Laravel and CodeIgniter for building robust web applications.
  • Python: Python is known for its simplicity and readability.

    It has frameworks like Django and Flask that provide powerful tools for creating web applications efficiently.

  • Java: Java is a versatile language used in various domains, including web development. Java-based frameworks like Spring and Hibernate enable developers to build scalable and secure web applications.


In conclusion, a web application runs on a server by following the client-server model. The client sends requests to the server, which processes them and generates responses.

Server-side technologies play a crucial role in handling these requests and executing code to provide dynamic content. Understanding this process helps developers build efficient and interactive web applications.

Now that you have a better understanding of how a web application runs on a server, you can dive deeper into specific server-side technologies and explore the endless possibilities of building powerful web applications.

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