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A web application is a program that runs on a web server and can be used (interfaced) via a web browser.

A web application may have all the functionality of 'conventionally' installed software. However, it has the flexibility and scalability that comes with being deployed over the 'web'

Before the Internet revolution a little man could often be seen installing software on every PC in a multinational corporation. It was a pretty inefficient way of deploying software! Intranets and web applications changed all that...

Mr Jones wants to go on holiday to Spain, so he searches on the Internet for a website that sells cheap flight tickets. Mr Jones is lucky enough to find www.dodgy-flights (fictitious) and enters his destination and departure date in an online form. Mr Jones hits the 'submit' button and a few moments later a table is displayed showing all the available flights from all the airlines to his destination in Spain.

In fact, what has actually happened is that a 'web application' has taken Mr Jones request and searched several connected databases for all the available flights which match his request. A web page showing all the options is 'dynamically' created and sent to his browser.

Mr Jones then chooses the cheapest flight and fills in another form. The 'web application' processes his details and credit card, then books the flight for him. A couple of days later, Mr Jones receives his printed tickets in the post.

Mr Jones has just used one (of many) web applications.

 

Here is another example.
Megacorp PLC used to develop computer programmes in-house. These programs did many things, one of which allowed personnel to search through a database of all the extension telephone numbers of its several thousand staff.

Before the Internet revolution, this programme had to be installed in every PC in Megacorp. Basically, a little man in a white coat went from desktop PC to desktop PC and installed the 'personnel telephone extension' software. This took so long, by the time he had finished installing the software on all of Megacorp's PC's, he had to start again, because version 2 had just been developed.

It was a pretty inefficient way of deploying programmes!

Then along came the Internet and the private corporate Internet known as the 'Intranet'. Everything changed. The savvy developers at Megacorp started developing web applications. One server was wired up to the personnel database and some coding was embedded into some HTML pages. Now Megacorp's staff could go the corporate Intranet and use their web browsers to search for telephone numbers. The results were returned to them as 'dynamic web pages' over the Intranet.

Now, every time there was a change to the application, the developers only had to update the one server rather than thousands of PC's. Megacorp saved a fortune in development time and money. The little man in the white coat no longer had to trudge from desk to desk all day (he retired to a wee bungalow near Skegness) and everyone was happy… or a least as happy as one could get working for Megacorp!

From here on, Megacorp was firmly committed to web applications with more and more of their daily operations being run over the Intranet.

 

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