What Is Meant by Web Server and Servlet?


Larry Thompson

A web server and servlet are two essential components of web development. In this article, we will explore what each term means and how they work together to provide dynamic websites.

Web Server:
A web server is a software application that serves static content, such as HTML pages, images, CSS files, and JavaScript files, to clients over the internet. It receives requests from clients, processes them, and returns the requested content. The web server acts as an intermediary between the client’s browser and the website’s files.

There are several popular web servers available, including Apache HTTP Server, Nginx, Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), and Google Web Server (GWS). These servers can run on different operating systems like Windows, Linux, or macOS.

Web servers communicate with clients using the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) protocol. When a client requests a webpage by typing a URL in their browser or clicking on a link, the web server processes the request and sends back the corresponding HTML document.

A servlet is a Java program that runs on a web server to handle dynamic content generation. Unlike static content served by the web server directly from files on disk, servlets generate dynamic content based on user input or other external factors.

Servlets are part of the Java Servlet API, which provides classes and interfaces for building server-side applications in Java. They offer a way to extend the functionality of a web server by dynamically generating HTML pages or interacting with databases or other resources.

  • Servlets are Java classes that implement the javax.servlet.Servlet interface.
  • They can receive requests from clients and send responses back.
  • Servlets can handle different types of HTTP requests like GET, POST, PUT, DELETE.
  • They can access request parameters sent by clients and use them to generate dynamic content.
  • Servlets can also set response headers, manage cookies, and redirect clients to other URLs.

How Web Servers and Servlets Work Together:

When a client sends an HTTP request to a web server, the server analyzes the request to determine which resource the client is requesting. If the requested resource is a static file, such as an HTML page or an image, the web server retrieves it from disk and sends it back to the client.

However, if the requested resource is a dynamic page that needs to be generated by a servlet, the web server passes the request to the servlet container or application server. The servlet container is responsible for managing servlets and their lifecycle.

The servlet container loads the appropriate servlet class based on the requested URL and creates an instance of that servlet. It then calls various methods of the servlet, such as init(), service(), and destroy(), depending on the type of request received.

Inside the service() method of a servlet, developers write code to generate dynamic content based on user input or other variables. The generated content is then sent back as an HTTP response to the client.

The Benefits of Using Servlets:

Using servlets in web development offers several advantages:

  • Portability: Servlets are written in Java, which is platform-independent. This means they can run on any operating system that supports a Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
  • Scalability: Servlet containers are designed to handle multiple requests concurrently. This makes them suitable for building high-performance web applications that can handle heavy traffic.
  • Maintainability: Servlets follow a well-defined API and can be easily maintained and updated without affecting the entire application.

In conclusion, a web server serves static content, while servlets handle dynamic content generation. They work together to provide users with interactive and personalized web experiences. Understanding the roles of web servers and servlets is essential for any developer working on web applications.

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