What is a Web Client and How It Works with Web Server Applications

What is a Web Client and How It Works with Web Server Applications. It looks very simple when you browse the internet from your devices. But do you know how the web works in the background? If you are interested to know, then let’s dive into this guide. First of all the internet comprises of two primary components: Web Clients and Web Servers.

In simple terms, the browsers you use on your computer or mobile devices are web clients. These are software designed to help end users access resources(web pages/files/services) on the internet. The computers or devices that store these resources are called Web Servers.

When you open a browser and type in a URL, the client and server perform a two way communication to serve the requested webpage. To fully understand the details of it, you must first understand what a Web client is and how it works with Web Server applications.

Shall we start with What is a Web Client and How It Works with Web Server Applications?

What is a Web Client?

A Web client is an application installed on the user’s device that they can use to surf the internet. Web clients request computer servers for a webpage but don’t store them.

Without these clients, an ordinary user can’t use the internet. When you search for a particular webpage through your browser, it retrieves the page from the appropriate server and displays the result. The client and server communicate via HTTP(Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

You can think of the HTTP protocol as the language of the web. It enables networked devices to send and receive traffic using a set of simple rules. However, there’re other types of protocols, such as SSH(Secure Shell), FTP(File Transfer Protocol) and SMTP(Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).

Features of Web Clients

These days, all web browsers offer some standard features which aim to make internet browsing easier for us. In short, your choice of web client should feature some of the following.

  • Support for private/incognito browsing.
  • VPN or Proxy support.
  • Multiple tabs or windows.
  • Back/Previous and Forward buttons.
  • Home, Refresh, Stop buttons.
  • Address bar for URL.
  • History and bookmark.

Example of Web Clients

Some popular examples of web clients include Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Tor, etc. So all types of internet browsers are client software. However, there’re other types of clients that many people use for everyday tasks. Video calling solutions like Zoom or Jitsi are one example of such clients. And so are SSH clients such as PuTTY or WinSCP. They allow users to connect to a different machine over the web. 

Another example of web clients includes email applications. If you have got an email app like Gmail or Microsoft Outlook, those are also a type of web(email) client.

So how does Web Client Works with Web Server Applications? Let’s find out. 

How Web Client Works with Web Server Applications

As you can guess already, Web clients can’t do much on their own. The information they display on your screen, like this article, is powered by web servers. So, how does your client work with web server applications?

Well, the Web server applications include a range of software that provide features like sending and receiving client requests, processing data on the fly and displaying them in the correct order. These applications communicate with your server via the HTTP protocol. However, some servers also use other protocols.

When you send a web request to a page, one of these server applications handles your request. It checks if the request made by the client software is valid and whether the requested information is available on the server or not. Once confirmed, the web server application processes the request and sends the desired information to the web client.

Next in this article about What is a Web Client and How It Works with Web Server Applications? is to find out about a web server. 

What is a Web Server?

Firstly, a Web Servers are systems that are connected to the internet and store web pages. In addition it sends out requested data over the web using HTTP. In nutshell, like Apache– the Web Servers are just like libraries for web pages. They store, process and deliver the web resources to the client software.

Servers can also use other data transfer protocols such as SMTP and FTP. Mail servers use SMTP for transferring emails from one user to another. Additionally FTP server is used for high speed file transfer operations.

Older web servers used to serve the requested documents as is, without any modifications. These types of servers are known as static servers. Most modern servers today serve dynamic content instead. Dynamic web servers modify the requested content on the fly.

Features of Web Servers

As the powerhouse of the internet, the web server is responsible for hosting documents and processing them. Modern web servers feature the following common functionalities:

  • Support for standard protocols like HTTP, FTP, SMTP, and SSH.
  • Can serve static content as requested.
  • Also they can deliver dynamic content on demand.
  • Logging client information and requests.
  • Support for virtual hosting.
  • Ability to authorize or deny website path traversal.
  • Support for large files, bandwidth throttling, and custom error pages.

Examples of Web Servers

There are different types of server software for delivering web content to end users. Some popular web servers include Apache, Microsoft IIS(Internet Information Services), lighttpd, and Nginx.

Apart from these few, there’re also some other choices. However, when choosing a web server software for your website, try to stick with the popular ones. It’ll help you maintain a stable and secure website in the long run. Plus, finding support will also be easier.

How Servers and Clients Work Together

When you search for a website, you type its URL in the browser. The browser then translates the web address to its IP. An IP address is a unique number that identifies devices on the internet. This information is stored on DNS nameservers. The browser queries the DNS database for the IP address of your URL and retrieves it.

Once the IP address is found, your web client sends an HTTP request to the server’s IP address. The server receives the request and sends an HTTP “200 OK” response if everything goes well. Then it sends the requested information or data in small chunks called packets. Once the packets reach your network, the router forwards them to your device.

The webpage you see on your devices is made up of component files. These are of two types – code files and assets. Webpages are built using coding languages like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, etc. Code files are documents that define how the webpage works. Assets are everything else that makes up a site, such as videos, images, PDFs, etc.

When you see a webpage, that means your browser has decoded all the necessary components. In the browser, you never get the real version of the webpage, and only a copy of the page is fetched when you request it. That’s why you have to reload web pages if you want to visit a previous page. Your web client does not save the data. It only represents a clone of the real one.

Impact of Web Clients on the Internet

As you’ve seen already, the internet works using a Client Server model. The client is responsible for sending out requests to the server. And once the server sends the requested information, the client has to parse this data so that the user can view the requested resources.

Without having a client installed on your device, you will not be able to send or receive data from web servers. So, web clients are essential for accessing the internet.

Impact of Web Servers on the Internet

Summing up the web servers are the driving force of the internet. It stores information, processes data, and sends back resources that are requested by the user’s client. The data hosted by the server is crucial because, without it, there’s no use of the internet.

Moreover, modern web servers do much more than delivering resources to your devices. The server is responsible for ensuring that the data it sends to the users is safe. That’s why a lot of malicious users target servers. If a server gets hacked, it can also infect other people’s devices.

Thank you for reading What is a Web Client and How It Works with Web Server Applications? Let’s conclude. 

What is a Web Client and How It Works with Web Server Applications Conclusion

To conclude web clients and servers are two basic building blocks of the internet. As we have discussed already, the client part of the internet resides on our devices. It’s the software we use to connect to the internet and view information stored on web servers. On the other hand, servers make sure the data requested by the client software is sent accordingly. Without one, the other can not function. So, in order to access the internet the way we do, we must use both client and server applications.

For more information about Apache web server check our our blog here:

Avatar for Rubaiat Hossain
Rubaiat Hossain

I'm a computer science engineer with a strong passion for open-source. Besides being a Unix veteran, I'm also into security, cryptography, and functional programming. I'm an avid collector of secondhand books and have a never-ending admiration for classic rock.

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