What Exactly Does a Web Server Do?


Scott Campbell

What Exactly Does a Web Server Do?

A web server is a crucial component of the World Wide Web infrastructure that enables websites to be accessible on the internet. It plays a vital role in delivering web content to users around the world. In this article, we will explore the functions and responsibilities of a web server in more detail.

Handling HTTP Requests

One of the primary functions of a web server is to handle incoming HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) requests from clients, such as web browsers. When a user types a URL into their browser or clicks on a hyperlink, an HTTP request is sent to the appropriate web server.

The web server receives these requests and processes them to retrieve the requested information. This can include HTML documents, images, videos, CSS stylesheets, JavaScript files, and more. The server then sends back an HTTP response containing the requested content to the client.

Serving Web Pages

A significant responsibility of a web server is serving web pages to users. When someone visits a website by entering its URL or clicking on a link, their browser sends an HTTP request to the appropriate web server.

The web server retrieves the requested webpage and sends it back as an HTTP response. This process involves locating and fetching different components of the webpage, such as HTML markup, CSS stylesheets, JavaScript code, images, and other multimedia elements.

Hosting Websites

Web servers also play a crucial role in hosting websites. When you decide to publish your website on the internet, you need to choose a hosting provider that offers web server capabilities.

The hosting provider sets up and maintains powerful computers with specialized software that can store your website files and serve them when requested by visitors. This ensures that your website is accessible to users around the world, regardless of their location or device.

Managing Web Applications

In addition to serving static web pages, web servers can also manage dynamic web applications. These applications generate web content on the fly, often by interacting with databases or other external systems.

Web servers running server-side scripting languages like PHP, Python, or Ruby can interpret and execute the code necessary for generating dynamic content. They can process user input, perform calculations, retrieve data from databases, and generate HTML pages that are then sent back as an HTTP response.

Securing Communication

Web servers also play a crucial role in securing communication between clients and websites. They can enable HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) to encrypt data transmitted between the client’s browser and the server. This encryption ensures that sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, and personal data remains secure during transmission.

Web servers use SSL/TLS certificates to establish an encrypted connection. These certificates verify the identity of the website and enable secure communication. When a user sees a lock icon or “https://” in their browser’s address bar, it indicates that the website is using encryption provided by the web server.


To sum up, web servers are essential components of the internet infrastructure that handle HTTP requests, serve web pages and applications, host websites, and secure communication. Understanding their role is crucial for anyone involved in creating or managing websites.

If you want to learn more about web development and how to set up your own server, consider exploring additional resources and tutorials available online.

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