What Is a Web Server and Web Container?


Angela Bailey

A web server is a software application that serves web pages to clients over the internet. It is responsible for receiving requests from clients, processing those requests, and sending back the requested resources. A web container, also known as a servlet container or a servlet engine, is a component of a web server that manages the execution of Java servlets and JavaServer Pages (JSPs).

Web Server

A web server acts as the foundation of any website or web application. When you type a website URL into your browser’s address bar and hit enter, your browser sends an HTTP request to the corresponding web server. The web server then processes this request and returns the requested HTML, CSS, JavaScript files, or any other resources back to the client’s browser.

Web servers are designed to handle multiple client requests simultaneously. They listen for incoming requests on specific ports (usually port 80 for HTTP and port 443 for HTTPS) and respond with the appropriate resources based on those requests.

Common Web Servers

There are several popular web servers available today:

  • Apache HTTP Server: Apache is one of the most widely used open-source web servers. It is known for its stability, flexibility, and security features.
  • Nginx: Nginx is another popular open-source web server known for its high performance and efficient resource utilization.
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS): IIS is a web server developed by Microsoft and primarily used on Windows-based systems.

Web Container

A web container provides an environment for running Java-based components like servlets and JSPs within a web server. It manages their lifecycle, handles incoming requests, and dispatches them to the appropriate servlet or JSP for processing.

The web container also provides additional services such as session management, security, and concurrency control. It ensures that Java web components are executed efficiently and in a controlled manner.

Java Servlets

Servlets are Java classes that extend the capabilities of servers by generating dynamic content. They receive requests from clients, process them, and generate responses based on the request parameters.

Servlets provide a powerful platform-independent solution for building web applications. They can interact with databases, execute business logic, and generate dynamic HTML content using Java code.

JavaServer Pages (JSP)

JSP is a technology that enables developers to embed Java code within HTML pages. It allows for the separation of presentation logic from business logic by providing a way to dynamically generate HTML content using Java.

JSP pages are compiled into servlets by the web container at runtime. This means that JSP files are ultimately transformed into pure Java code and executed as servlets within the web container.


In summary, a web server is responsible for serving web pages to clients over the internet. It handles incoming requests and responds with the requested resources.

A web container, on the other hand, manages the execution of Java servlets and JSPs within a web server environment. It provides additional services to enhance the functionality of these components.

Understanding the roles of both a web server and a web container is essential for developers working with Java-based web applications. By leveraging their capabilities effectively, developers can build robust and scalable web solutions.

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