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What is a web application?

Has anyone thought about the definition of a web application? What kind of advantages it has and how does it work? Each of these questions is answered below.

A good part of various businesses is actively utilizing the power of the Internet as a tool for enhancing their business model and improving the relationship with their target audience. Thus, when one business will transition to the online digital environment, he can increase the speed and security of his interactions. However, to successfully achieve such productive results, one would need a tool that combines all of the relevant content, services, and products and presents it to potential customers. And that tool is web application development.

Web applications are like a medium between a company and its customers in the digital environment. Thus, by understanding that, lots of businesses began to change the way they were working previously, taking advantage of web applications. So what is a web application? Where can you use it? And what are the examples of web applications? All of these questions will be answered in our brief article below.

Web Application Definition

A web application is an online program that is primarily using a web browser as a medium to accomplish a certain allocated task. A very bold example of a web application is an E-Commerce online store. So basically, a web application is an online Internet app that runs on a client-server architecture.

The term "client" refers to the program that is used to access the web app (browser). The “server’ term refers to the hosting part, where the web app is located. The architecture itself is a complex environment where several workstations exchange data with a specific set of tools.

Each web application is built for different purposes and each one is used by businesses or individuals. Some web apps allow employees to collaborate on various projects and work on shared documents. They can generate reports, manage files, and share data from any location and on any computer.

Ever since the concept of a web application has been introduced to the world, the first one has seen lots of changes. The first major shift was in 1987 when a very popular server-side scripting language was created: “Perl”. The first release of a basic web application was not met with much excitement. Once the advanced version has been successfully deployed in the late 1990s, that’s when the real change started. Now pretty much any kind of business will have at least one deployed web application.

Web Application vs Website

There has been quite a lot of debate about the difference between a web application and a website. Especially, when so many people are actively using the term “website”, but rarely someone has called Facebook a “web app”. So, today, just like “Mythbusters”, let’s break the wall of similarities and look closely at the raw facts. Let’s resolve this battle between web applications and websites once and for all.

User Interaction

  • A common website provides mostly visual and informational content which can be viewed and read by an Internet user. However, there is practically no direct interaction whatsoever, except the animated GIFs, photos, and videos displayed on the website.
  • A web app has not only the same type of content, but it also has data manipulation processes on practically every page of a web app. Which allows various businesses to directly interact with and engage users. For example, a user can send a specific request to the company with the web app by filling out a specific form.

Authentication

  • The authentication feature in a website is completely optional and not necessarily implemented. In some cases, websites may have a registration process, just for you to receive new insights into their company and that’s pretty much it.
  • During a web application development process, authentication is a must-to-have feature that is implemented in almost every web app out there. Not only because it offers a wide variety of options and interactions over a specific period, but it also means that you get to have your own, personal account.

Tasks and Complexity

  • Once again, a website will have only a collection of content that is statically embedded into the website code on each page. Meaning that it won’t have any complex blocks or activities that may interest a user.
  • A web application, on the other hand, has a rich set of features that are complex, interactive, and dynamic. Compared to non-existent dynamic environments of websites.

Purpose of Creation

  • The purpose of a website is to display a certain amount of information or data available for public use. Which means that it will act as a static billboard.
  • The purpose of a web application is to directly interact with the end-user by utilizing various tools and methods. That does also include displaying various data and information, with mandatory authorization.

Deployment

● The deployment process of a website is utterly simple. And when you need to update some content within it, you just need to update the HTML code inside the specific web page and reload it. ● The deployment process of a web application is complex and requires several other technologies to deploy it online. Plus, if you need to change something, you will need to re-compile your entire web app to see the changes live.

Advantages of web application

A web application, just like lots of other technologies and tools on the Internet, has its strong points. And compared to other digital products, (like mobile applications), web apps have some strong pros that keep them popular. Below you can find the breakdown of the web application advantages.

Cross-platform

Access to any web application out there can be achieved with any kind of device you currently possess. As most of them have already adopted their browsers to the majority of modern web applications. Making it possible to run any web app you want on your phone, as long as you have an active Internet connection.

Cost-Effective

Web applications can be accessed from practically any kind of device. This statement directly implies that an owner of a web app does not need to develop a mobile app and pay any additional costs. Which makes the web application development process a cost-effective process, that reduces costs for the business founders.

Scalability

Since web-based applications do not need any upfront installations, it is really easy to increase the number of active users. More than that, modern web hosting servers can handle a high volume of incoming traffic without a sweat. Which makes it possible to extend the bandwidth without any addons or third-party installations.

Data Storage

As opposed to desktop applications, web applications mostly store all of their information in the cloud server. The server is quite powerful and it is capable of handling a large number of incoming requests and delivering most of the responses in a matter of seconds. Additionally, since servers are more resilient than individual hard disks, the risk of data loss due to some failure is practically non-existent when using a web application.

Security

Most web-based applications are hosted on dedicated hosting servers, which are monitored, and managed by web experts. And if there is any possible cyber-attack on the hosting server (ex. DDoS), the response will be almost immediate. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to be protected from pretty much any cyber threat. As web app technologies advance further and further, more vulnerabilities can be identified from the tools that are being released daily.

Accessibility

If you are migrating from desktop apps to web-based ones, your employees will be able to instantly grasp everything they need to know within several days. And there is no need to install software programs. All you need to have is direct access to the Internet and the hosting server.

How does a web application work?

Typically any web-based application is written in a combination of programming languages. The most default bundle would include HTML (for building web application pages), CSS (for creating design outlays), and JavaScript (to add dynamic and interactive content). All of them rely on the web browser, as it is responsible for executing all of the web app functionalities.

In the modern world, the majority of companies tend to adapt more complex and functional programming languages and frameworks, to produce a specific web application type. For example, the companies may use Laravel (a PHP development framework) to create an ECommerce store.

But how exactly does the web applications process the client’s request made from a simple web browser? To answer this question, we’ll illustrate a simple breakdown of how exactly web application communication works:

  1. The user sends out the request for the desired website over the Internet via a web browser interface or via a URL bar.
  2. The client’s server forwards the request to the designated web application server.
  3. The web app server queries the database where all of the information has been stored about the requested web page. Subsequently, generating the result in the form of a web page.
  4. The web application will then send a response to the client with all relevant information, they have requested.
  5. As a result, the client workstation will receive all the information in a web application page format.

There is no doubt that all of these steps are very high-level and they can be explained further. However, it is essential to understand how exactly the interaction between a client and a server is happening. Also, there are two main things we want to highlight and explain what this web app flow interaction involves. First is the server, where the web app is deployed and hosted. Second - the database, where all web app information is stored. These two are a part of the essential components of web application development.

Web Application Examples

Any dedicated email provider, (like Zoho, Gmail, Proton, etc), editing processors (Google Docs), and E-Commerce shops (Amazon) are the direct examples of a web application. Any social platforms (like Facebook or Instagram), any video or photo storing apps (Youtube, Pixabay), or any file transfer application (Sharedrop) can also be considered as a web app.

Nowadays all modern web applications are constantly evolving from the rising demand of potential customers. Since it is the core factor of evolution for lots of digital corporations. Dropbox or Netflix is the direct example of this evolution, which you can use on any kind of device, wherever you are.

In conclusion

In the end, the rapid development of Internet technologies and relevant tools has significantly changed the way modern businesses operate. Subsequently leading to a high increase in demand for web applications and migration to cloud-based technologies. So what was the overall aftermatch impact on lots of global businesses? Most of them have gained a new approach to promote their current products/services while decreasing the costs and increasing the efficiency of their business model.

Additionally, most of the desktop applications have been already replaced with web applications. And with the number of various benefits, every web app contains, they can give significantly cut the development costs while increasing the overall company’s efficiency.