What Is the Name of the First File Displayed in a Web Server?


Heather Bennett

What Is the Name of the First File Displayed in a Web Server?

When you access a website through a web browser, have you ever wondered which file is displayed first? The answer lies in the configuration of the web server. Let’s delve into this topic and understand how web servers work.

The Functionality of Web Servers

A web server is a software application that serves web pages to clients upon request. It delivers files stored on its host computer to users’ browsers, allowing them to view websites over the internet. The most commonly used web server software is Apache HTTP Server, followed by Nginx and Microsoft IIS.

Default Files in Web Servers

Web servers typically have a set of default files that they look for when receiving a request for a directory without specifying a specific file name. These default files are configured in the server’s settings and are usually searched for in a predefined order.


The most common default file is index.html. It is considered best practice to name your main homepage file as index. When someone accesses your website by entering its URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or domain name, the web server will look for this file in the requested directory and display it as the initial page.htm

In addition to index.html, some servers also recognize index.htm. This was more prevalent in older systems but is still supported by many modern servers. If no index.html file exists, index.htm will be searched for instead.

default.html or default.htm

Other servers, particularly those running on Windows environments, may have default.html or default.htm as their default files. These files serve the same purpose as the index files mentioned earlier.

welcome.html or welcome.htm

In some cases, web servers also recognize files named welcome.html or welcome. These files can be used as default pages if the configured index files are not found.

Customizing Default Files

The order and names of default files can be customized based on your specific needs. This is done by modifying the server’s configuration file, such as the httpd.conf file for Apache HTTP Server.

To change the default file in Apache, you can use the DirectoryIndex directive. For example:

<Directory /var/www/html>
    DirectoryIndex home.html index.php

In this example, when a user requests a directory, Apache will first look for home. If it doesn’t find that file, it will then search for index.php.

The Importance of Default Files

The existence of a default file ensures that visitors to your website are presented with a meaningful page instead of an empty directory listing. It allows you to control what users see when they access your site without specifying a particular file name.

  • A well-designed homepage can provide an overview of your website and guide users to relevant sections.
  • You can use it to display important announcements or news updates.
  • If you have custom error pages for handling HTTP errors like 404 page not found, the default file can redirect users to these error pages.

Remember that the default file is just the starting point. Once users are on your website, they can navigate to other pages and directories using links or by directly specifying the file names in the URL.


In conclusion, the name of the first file displayed in a web server is determined by its configuration. The most common default file is index.html, but there are other options like index.htm, default.html, and welcome.

Customizing default files allows you to control what visitors see when accessing your website without specifying a specific file name. By utilizing these default files effectively, you can provide a seamless browsing experience for your users.