servlet

A servlet is a small program that runs on a server.

A servlet is a small program that runs on a server. The term was coined in the context of the Java applet, a small program that is sent as a separate file along with a Web (HTML) page. Java applets, usually intended for running on a client, can result in such services as performing a calculation for a user or positioning an image based on user interaction.

Some programs, often those that access databases based on user input, need to be on the server. Typically, these have been implemented using a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) application. However, with a Java running in the server, such programs can be implemented with the Java programming language. The advantage of a Java servlet on servers with lots of traffic is that they can execute more quickly than CGI applications. Rather than causing a separate program process to be created, each user request is invoked as a thread in a single daemon process, meaning that the amount of system overhead for each request is slight.

Instead of a URL that designates the name of a CGI application (in a "cgi-bin" subdirectory), a request in a form on a Web HTML page that results in a Java servlet getting called would call a URL that looks like this:

   http://www.whatis.com:8080/servlet/gotoUrl?http://www.someplace.com

The "8080" port number in the URL means the request is intended directly for the Web server itself. The "servlet" would indicate to the Web server that a servlet was being requested.

Add-on modules allow Java servlets to run in Netscape Enterprise, Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), and Apache servers.

This was first published in April 2005

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