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What is a Web Server and How it Works

Updated on March 12, 2013


So powerful and fast, a web server is actually a simple piece of software. It gets the file name sent in the GET command, retrieves the file and transmits it down the wire to the browser. If you are good at codes to handle the ports and port connections, you can make C program that uses a simple web server in less than 500 lines of code. In higher level of web server, the basics are still present and simple.

Since there are a lot of mischievous users on the web (hijackers, hackers and even scammers), almost all of the servers that is in the internet are beefed up with high level of security to the serving process. For instance, if you stumble upon a web page and goes along with it a pop-up dialog box asking for your name and password, you just come across with a password protected page (e.g. Yahoo mail, Google mail, etc.).

The server enables the owner of the page to maintain a list of names and passwords for those users who are allowed in having an access of the pages. The server allows only those people who know the right password. The server enables the owner of the page maintain a list of names and passwords for those people who are allowed to gain access of the pages. The server allows only those people who know the right password to see the page.

More sophisticated and advanced servers reinforces security further as it give way for an encrypted connection between a server and a browser, so the sensitive information such as credit card numbers can be sent on the web (e.g Paypal, ebay) .

What is the difference between static web page and dynamic web page?

Static Web Pages -Web servers actually deliver standard “static” pages. These pages don’t change unless the owner of the pages edits them.

But what are Dynamic Web Pages – Here are some examples:

A good example is guestbook, this allows you to enter a message in an HTML form and the next time the guestbook is seen, the page will automatically contain a new entry.

The comments posted on a website.

The entries made in forums.

The whois form at Network solutions, lets you enter a domain name on a form and the page returned is different depending on the domain name being entered.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and etc. allows you to enter keywords or tags on an HTML form and then it is dynamically create a page based on the keywords you enter.

In these cases, the web server is not just searching for a file; it is actually processing information and makes a page based on the specifics of the questions. Most often the web server is utilizing CGI scripts to provide a task.


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