What Is Difference Between Web Server and Web Container?


Scott Campbell

What Is the Difference Between Web Server and Web Container?

When it comes to web development, understanding the roles of a web server and a web container is essential. Both play crucial roles in serving web applications, but they serve different purposes. In this article, we will explore the differences between a web server and a web container.

The Web Server

A web server is software that handles HTTP requests and responses. It is responsible for receiving requests from clients (usually web browsers) and returning the requested resources back to them. The primary function of a web server is to deliver static content such as HTML files, images, CSS stylesheets, JavaScript files, etc.

Common examples of web servers include Apache HTTP Server, Nginx, and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). These servers are usually installed on dedicated machines or virtual servers that are accessible over the internet via an IP address or domain name.

The Web Container

A web container, also known as a servlet container or application server, provides an environment for running dynamic web applications. It hosts Java-based components called servlets and manages their lifecycle. Servlets are Java classes that handle HTTP requests and generate dynamic content.

Web containers provide additional services such as session management, security enforcement, JSP (JavaServer Pages) support, database connectivity, clustering capabilities, and more. They act as an intermediary between the client’s requests and the servlets that process those requests.

Examples of popular Java-based web containers include Apache Tomcat, Jetty, and IBM WebSphere Application Server.

Differences Between Web Server and Web Container

  • Nature: A web server is responsible for serving static content, while a web container hosts and runs dynamic web applications.
  • Functionality: Web servers handle HTTP requests and deliver static resources, while web containers manage servlets, handle dynamic requests, and provide additional services.
  • Content Generation: Web servers are not capable of generating dynamic content. They rely on external programs or frameworks to generate dynamic content before sending it to clients.

    Web containers generate dynamic content using servlets or other server-side technologies such as JSP.

  • Deployment: Web servers are usually deployed independently and can be used to serve any type of static content. In contrast, web containers are part of larger application server environments and are specifically designed to run Java-based web applications.
  • Configuration: Configuring a web server generally involves setting up virtual hosts, defining directories, configuring security rules, etc. On the other hand, configuring a web container involves deploying web applications, managing servlets and their mappings, configuring database connections, etc.


In summary, the main difference between a web server and a web container lies in their purpose and functionality. While a web server serves static content and handles basic HTTP requests and responses, a web container hosts dynamic web applications written in Java and provides additional services required for running those applications effectively.

Understanding the differences between these two components is crucial for developers working on building or deploying web applications. By leveraging the strengths of both the web server and the web container appropriately, developers can create powerful and efficient solutions for their users.

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