What Is a Web Server for Dummies?


Larry Thompson

A web server is a software program that serves as the backbone of the World Wide Web. It is responsible for processing and delivering web pages to users who request them through their web browsers. In simple terms, a web server is like a waiter in a restaurant – it takes orders from customers (web browsers) and serves them the requested content (web pages).

How Does a Web Server Work?

When you type a URL into your web browser, such as “https://www.example.com”, the browser sends an HTTP request to the web server hosting that website. The web server receives this request and processes it to determine which files or resources need to be sent back to the browser.

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which is the protocol used for communication between clients (web browsers) and servers (web servers). It defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, as well as what actions should be taken by the server in response to various requests.

The web server then locates the requested files on its storage system and sends them back to the browser as an HTTP response. This response includes not only the HTML content of the webpage but also any images, CSS stylesheets, JavaScript files, or other resources referenced by that page.

Types of Web Servers

There are several popular web server software options available today:

  • Apache HTTP Server: Apache is one of the most widely used open-source web servers. It is known for its flexibility, stability, and support for various operating systems.
  • Nginx: Nginx (pronounced “engine-x”) is another popular open-source web server known for its high performance and ability to handle concurrent connections efficiently.
  • Microsoft IIS: Internet Information Services (IIS) is a web server software developed by Microsoft and is the default choice for hosting websites on Windows servers.
  • LiteSpeed Web Server: LiteSpeed is a lightweight web server that boasts superior performance and scalability, making it suitable for high-traffic websites.

The Role of DNS

Before a web server can receive requests, a Domain Name System (DNS) translates the human-readable domain name (e.g., “example.com”) into an IP address (e., “”). This IP address represents the location of the web server on the internet. Without DNS, users would need to memorize lengthy IP addresses instead of simple domain names.

In conclusion,

A web server is a crucial component of the internet infrastructure, responsible for delivering web content to users around the world. Understanding its role and how it works is essential for anyone interested in building or managing websites.

So next time you visit a website, remember that behind the scenes, there’s a web server working diligently to serve you those pages!

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