Web architecture is the conceptual structure of the World Wide Web. The WWW or the Internet is a constantly changing medium which enables communication between different users and the technical interaction (interoperability) between different systems and subsystems. The basis for this are different components and data formats, which are usually arranged in tiers and build on each other. Overall, they form the infrastructure of the Internet, which is made possible by the three core components of data transmission protocols (TCP/IP, HTTP), representation formats (HTML, CSS, XML), and addressing standards (URI, URL). The term Web architecture is to be distinguished from the terms website architecture and information architecture.
The Web or World Wide Web is a concept that was realized in the 1990s, so that people and machines could communicate with each other within a certain space. It is used to exchange, distribute, and share information in a network. At that time, the Web consisted predominantly of static websites based on HTML, in other words, hypertexts which can be retrieved by a browser. Dynamic websites and distributed web services were added later.
The Internet is a medium that is constantly changing and expanded by numerous developers, programmers and various consortia such as the W3C. However, the architectures used can be schematically distinguished.
Initially, the web consisted of a two-tiered architecture: clients and servers shared the tasks and services that the system was supposed to perform. For example, the client may request a service from the server; the server answers the request by providing the service. Retrieving a website using a URL address that directs to a server and loading the site in the client’s browser is an example of the two-layer model, also known as the client-server model.
The Internet protocol family, which now consists of around 500 different network protocols, is usually used as the basis for the WWW, but it usually comprises the TCP/TCP/IP reference model. Three prerequisites must exist in the web architecture for the distributed application systems to communicate with one another:
Finally, the web architecture is analogous to the operational structure of application systems for data storage, data transmission, and presentation. When transferred to the web, the web architecture typically consists of database servers that manage the data and resources. They communicate with a client using a transfer protocol that can retrieve the data and view it in a browser. The representation is usually done with HTML and CSS.
Generally, a distinction is made between server-side and client-side data processing. Dynamic websites are characterized by the fact that content is changed on the client side without new communication between server and client being required. Action on the client side is influenced by scripts, so that no asynchronous data transfer is necessary. On the server side, modified content is stored via the application server on the database server. Optionally, this can be a virtual server that emulates a physical one.
There are different programming languages and frameworks to implement three-tier models. A selection:
Today the web is used for the networking of globally distributed IT structures. Each IT system can, in turn, consist of subsections whose individual components are linked to one another via a fixed structure or architecture. Think intranet and internal enterprise software. Modern IT and web applications are much more complex than the client-server model. Distributed web services, which are set up as service-oriented architectures (SOA), offer many functions and modular functional units, which can be supplemented. With SOAs, business processes can be automated by the involved systems communicating with one another - partly without human intervention - and performing certain tasks. Examples include online banking, e-commerce, e-learning, online marketplaces, and business intelligence applications. These architectures are not only much more complex, but can also be modularly extended. They are known as N-tier architectures and have so far been used primarily in the business sector.
There are generally two approaches:
The Internet of Things or Semantic Web can be considered a current research area in this context. If the Web architecture were represented as an evolutionary time-line, IoT and Semantic Web would be the top of the development. The architectures that are used there are correspondingly complex.
The effects of different architectures are extremely diverse. From a user perspective, websites and web services are changing to a degree that not even developers can keep track of, what with hundreds of protocols, programming and scripting languages, frameworks and interfaces. For users, however, an extended range of functions is an advantage, as long as the system functions. Websites become interactive, data can be exchanged faster, and services interact with each other easily. Depending on the model chosen, certain KPIs of a web project can increase enormously. Keyword: Performance or page speed. But even the user experience and the joy of use can be positively improved.
For ambitious web applications, however, developers now also need a profound knowledge of IT infrastructure, programming languages, APIs, security, and data protection. From a developer’s perspective, Web architectures are becoming more and more complex and many different approaches exist at the same time. The Internet as such does not know otherwise. Technologies come and go and only the best applications prevail because they solve a particular problem and are accepted by the users. The client-server model is already a classic, even if it is still used for billions of websites. Successors are probably already established with service-oriented architectures.