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Definition: Web application

An application in which all or some parts of the software are downloaded from the Web every time it runs. Following are explanations of each type.

Browser Based
In a browser-based Web application, the user simply goes to a website, and JavaScript instructions are contained within the Web pages that are retrieved. Combined with the HTML and CSS style sheet, which provide the visual layout, the browser executes the code and renders the page. In addition, processing at the server side is typically performed to access databases and other support functions. The data for a Web application may be stored locally or on the Web, or in both locations.

Client Based
Web applications may also run without the browser. A client program, which is either installed in the user's computer or mobile device or is downloaded each session, interacts with a server on the Web using standard Web protocols. This is similar to the "client/server" architecture that prevailed in companies before the Internet exploded, except that today the server is on the Internet rather than the local network. Just like browser-based applications, the data may be stored remotely or locally. See rich client, cloud computing, ASP and SaaS.

Native Mobile Apps
Countless native iOS and Android apps use the Web for additional information, such as a weather app that downloads the latest climate data or a stock app that gets the latest market quotes. Using the Web's HTTP protocol, myriad mobile apps retrieve data in the background that users may or may not be unaware of. See native mobile app and native application.