What is a web application?

22nd February 2011

We’re constantly getting asked what is a web application and being bespoke application developers you’d expect us to know the answer. Well here goes. A web application is simply software that uses a web browser as a client.

What are the Benefits of a Web Application?

Unlike more traditional software development, developing software that uses a web browser does away with the need to develop using a specific language and a specific operating system such as Windows or Linux. Since the client runs in a web browser, the user could be using an IBM-compatible or a Mac. They can be running Windows XP or Windows Vista. They can even be using Internet Explorer or Firefox, though some applications require a specific web browser.

Web applications commonly use a combination of server-side script (ASP, PHP, etc) and client-side script (HTML, Javascript, etc.) to develop the application. The client-side script deals with the presentation of the information while the server-side script deals with all the hard stuff like storing and retrieving the information.

How Long Have Web Applications Been Around?

Web Applications have been around since before the web gained mainstream popularity. The earlier web applications were relatively simple, but the late 90’s saw a push toward more complex web applications. The chances are if your using Google Docs or Windows Live Mail then you’ve already been using web application.

What is the Future of Web Applications?

Most web applications are based on the client-server architecture where the client enters information while the server stores and retrieves information. Internet mail is an example of this, with companies like Yahoo and MSN offering web-based email clients.

The new push for web applications is crossing the line into those applications that do not normally need a server to store the information. Your word processor, for example, stores documents on your computer, and doesn’t need a server.

Web applications can provide the same functionality and gain the benefit of working across multiple platforms. For example, a web application can act as a word processor, storing information and allowing you to ‘download’ the document onto your personal hard drive.

If you have seen the new Gmail or Yahoo mail clients, you have seen how sophisticated web applications have become in the past few years. Much of that sophistication is because of AJAX, which is a programming model for creating more responsive web applications.

At 3Squared we specialise in developing bespoke web application with rich functionality typically only associated with desktop based software. Contact us now if you’d like to discuss a software development project.