A web server can refer to softwares or hardwares or both at the same time working together.
Concerning software components, a web server consists in various fragments controlling the way users can access the files. There is at least on HTTP server. A HTTP server is a software containing URLs and a HTTP protocol, the protocol used par web browsers to display web pages.
On the simplest level, every time a browser needs a file hosted on a web server, the browser send a request for the file through HTTP. When the request reaches the right web server (hardware), the HTTP server (software) send back the requested file, also through HTTP. To publish a website, you will need or a static server or a dynamic one.
Static web server
A static web server consists in a computer (hardware) and a HTTP server (software). It is called “static” because the server sends hosted files directly to the browser, without making any change.
Dynamic web server
A dynamic web server has other software servers, some of them frequently used including an application server and a database. It is called “dynamic” because the application server updates hosted filed before sending them to the browser through HTTP.
For instance, to produce the web page you see on your browser, the application server can use a HTML model and complete it with datas. Therefore, websites such as Wikipédia have thousands of pages but there is not one real HTML document for each of these pages. Actually, there are some HTML models or templates used with a gigantic database. This organisation allows to make content available in a better way and maintain the website more efficiently.
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