"Web Server" nowadays refers to the HTTP server like Apache or Netscape or Microsoft's IIS that acts as the first point of contact for serving Web pages and HTML content (static content) to browsers. A "Web Application Server" basically plugs into or behind the Web Server and provides a shell or a runtime environment for deploying Java applications. These applications are responsible for (optionally) connecting to other databases and systems and creating dynamic content (like the results of a database query). These dynamically generated web pages are then taken by the Web Server and presented back to the Web browser clients. The Web Server is the necessary middleman. The application work is occurring in the Web application server behind it.
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