Web Applications

Web applications, usually referred to as web apps or simply apps, are small pieces of software that run in web browsers.  They are created using programming languages that are supported by browsers like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.  Open source programming packages like Ruby on Rails and Django are often used to make creating web apps easier.  Unlike apps found on Smart Phones or computers, web applications are dependent on the web browser—they cannot be run independently.  This is one of the reasons web applications are very small programs—the web browser does much of the work.  The user doesn’t have to install any other software.  When a program relies heavily on another program in this way, it’s often referred to as a thin client.

Advantages of Web Applications

The biggest advantage of a web app is, as listed above, the small file size and ability to run the app using a web browser.  However, there are a few more advantages.  Programming a web application takes less time because the app can take advantage of the features the web browser already has.  Instead of programming in these features, app developers simply have the app use the existing features. 

Another advantage is that web applications are often cross-platform.  An app that works on Windows will also run on iOS or operating systems like Linux.  Apps are often designed to work with multiple web browsers, too.  The majority of apps available today are compatible with Mozilla FireFox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome. 

When an app needs to be updated, it’s often done with the user visits the webpage.  The web browser sees that a new version of the app is available and automatically updates.  Before apps, an upgrade typically had to be done on both the server-side and the client (user) side.  This involved installing the update on the computer manually.  Web applications can be updated so quickly and easily that there are times when an update happens every time a user visits a webpage that needs the app.

How Apps are Used

Web applications are used by businesses and website operators in a number of ways.  In many cases, users who create their own websites are able to take advantage of the web applications their web hosting company provides.  In other cases, especially if the user is running their own web hosting server, they may have to purchase and install the web applications themselves.