Is Tomcat a Web Server or App Server?


Angela Bailey

Is Tomcat a Web Server or App Server?

Tomcat is a widely used server in the world of web development, but it can sometimes be confusing to determine whether it is classified as a web server or an application server. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of Tomcat and shed light on its classification.

Web Server vs. Application Server

Before delving into the specifics of Tomcat, let’s first understand the difference between a web server and an application server. A web server primarily handles HTTP requests and serves static content such as HTML, CSS, and images to clients.

On the other hand, an application server performs additional functions beyond serving static content. It can run dynamic applications and execute code on behalf of the client.

Tomcat as a Web Server

Tomcat can definitely be considered as a web server. When used solely as a web server, Tomcat is responsible for serving static content like HTML pages and other assets to clients.

It efficiently handles incoming HTTP requests, dispatches them to the appropriate resources, and sends back responses.

  • Serving Static Content: Tomcat enables you to host your website by handling static files such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and images.
  • HTTP Request Handling: It efficiently receives incoming HTTP requests and forwards them to the corresponding resources.
  • Response Generation: Tomcat generates responses based on the requested resources and delivers them back to clients.

Tomcat as an Application Server

While Tomcat certainly excels in its role as a web server, it can also function as an application server when combined with Java technologies. Tomcat provides a Java servlet container that allows developers to deploy and run Java web applications, making it an application server as well.

  • Java Web Applications: Tomcat can host and execute Java web applications built using servlets, JavaServer Pages (JSP), or other Java-based technologies.
  • Servelet Container: It provides a robust environment to run servlets, managing their lifecycle and handling requests and responses.
  • Support for Java EE Specifications: Tomcat implements several Java EE specifications, making it compatible with various enterprise-level applications.


In conclusion, Tomcat can be classified as both a web server and an application server. As a web server, it efficiently serves static content and handles HTTP requests.

As an application server, it enables the deployment and execution of Java web applications. Whether you use it solely as a web server or take advantage of its application server capabilities depends on your specific requirements.

Understanding the distinction between web servers and application servers is crucial in choosing the right tool for your development needs. Tomcat’s versatility makes it a popular choice among developers looking for a reliable solution that can handle both static content delivery and dynamic application execution.

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