What Is Difference Between Application Server and Web Server?


Heather Bennett

What Is the Difference Between Application Server and Web Server?

When it comes to web development, it’s important to understand the distinction between application servers and web servers. While both play critical roles in serving websites, they have distinct functionalities and purposes. In this article, we will delve into the differences between these two types of servers.

Web Server

A web server is a software that handles HTTP requests and responses. Its primary responsibility is to deliver web pages and static content to users. Web servers are designed to host websites and handle basic web protocols.

Here are some key characteristics of a web server:

  • Handles HTTP requests: Web servers receive HTTP requests from clients (typically web browsers), retrieve the requested files, and send them back as HTTP responses.
  • Serves static content: Web servers excel at delivering static HTML, CSS, JavaScript files, images, videos, etc., directly from the file system.
  • Examples: Apache HTTP Server, Nginx, Microsoft IIS.

Application Server

An application server, on the other hand, is designed to execute applications written in various programming languages. It provides an environment for developers to build and deploy dynamic applications.

Here are some key characteristics of an application server:

  • Executes business logic: Application servers execute complex business logic by processing user requests and interacting with databases or external services.
  • Serves dynamic content: Unlike web servers that primarily handle static content, application servers generate dynamic content by generating HTML pages dynamically based on user input and application logic.
  • Examples: Apache Tomcat, JBoss, IBM WebSphere.

Differences at a Glance:

To summarize, here are some key differences between web servers and application servers:

  • Functionality: Web servers primarily serve static content, while application servers execute business logic and serve dynamic content.
  • Protocols: Web servers handle basic web protocols like HTTP, while application servers support additional protocols like Java’s Servlet API or Microsoft’s .NET Framework.
  • Deployment: Web server deployment typically involves copying static files to a designated folder, while an application server requires packaging the application in a deployable format like a WAR (Web Application Archive) file.


In conclusion, web servers and application servers have distinct functionalities in the world of web development. While web servers excel at delivering static content and handling basic web protocols, application servers provide an environment for executing dynamic applications with complex business logic. Understanding the differences between these two types of servers is crucial for developers to choose the appropriate server for their specific needs.

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