What Is Web Server and How It Works?


Scott Campbell

A web server is a crucial element in the world of the internet. It serves as the foundation for websites, allowing users to access and interact with web pages. In simple terms, a web server is a software application that handles incoming requests from clients, such as web browsers, and responds by delivering the requested web pages.

How does a web server work?

When you type a URL into your browser’s address bar and hit enter, your browser sends an HTTP request to the appropriate web server. This request includes information such as the desired webpage and any additional data required for processing.

Upon receiving the request, the web server processes it by determining which file or resource matches the requested URL. It then retrieves this file from its storage location and sends it back to the client as an HTTP response.

Types of Web Servers:

There are several types of web servers available today. Some popular ones include:

  • Apache HTTP Server: Apache is one of the most widely used open-source web servers. It is known for its stability, flexibility, and extensive documentation.
  • Nginx: Nginx is known for its high performance and efficient resource utilization. It excels at handling concurrent connections.
  • Microsoft IIS: Internet Information Services (IIS) is a web server developed by Microsoft specifically for Windows-based systems.

The Role of DNS

Before diving deeper into how a web server works, it’s important to understand the role of DNS (Domain Name System). When you enter a URL in your browser, DNS translates that human-readable domain name into an IP address that can be understood by machines.

Once DNS resolves the domain name to an IP address, your browser can establish a connection with the correct web server based on that IP address.


When your browser communicates with a web server, it does so using the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) or HTTPS (HTTP Secure) protocol. HTTP is the standard protocol used for transferring data between a client and a server.

HTTPS, on the other hand, is an extension of HTTP that adds an extra layer of security by encrypting the data exchanged between the client and server. This encryption ensures that any sensitive information, such as login credentials or payment details, remains secure during transmission.

Handling Multiple Requests

Web servers are designed to handle multiple requests simultaneously. They achieve this through processes called threading or forking.

Threading involves creating multiple threads within a single process to handle different requests concurrently. Forking, on the other hand, involves creating separate processes to handle each request.

These methods allow web servers to efficiently manage incoming requests and distribute resources accordingly to ensure smooth performance even during high traffic periods.


In conclusion, a web server is a vital component in the infrastructure of the internet. It receives requests from clients, retrieves the requested web pages or resources, and sends them back as responses. Understanding how web servers work is crucial for anyone involved in website development or administration.

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