Apache is web software that comes free of cost and is open source. It hosts around 40% of websites in the world! In fact, a huge majority of the sites you see on WordPress actually use Apache as their web server software. It was first released in 1995 and is possibly the oldest and the best web server out there.
We’ll get into the reasons for it, later on, the most fascinating thing about Apache is how highly customizable it is.
You can easily tweak it according to your preferences. This makes it the perfect option for a range of varying environments with their respective needs.
What is a Web Server?
A web server’s primary purpose is to serve websites on the Internet. Essentially, it does so by acting as the middle guy between the server and the client machines.
So, whenever you request something on a website, its server picks up the content from you and conveys it to the web. Think of your waiting staff at your favorite restaurant. Their job is to take your requests, and pass them onto the chef! That’s kind of exactly what your web server does as well.
Also, web servers work by processing different files. These are written in a multitude of different programming languages such as Java, PHP, and Python. Ultimately, its task is to turn these files into static HTML and move those ahead.
In short, a web server is responsible for all communication that goes on the web. Hence, they play an important role.
How Does Apache Work?
Our primary concern, however, is to figure out how Apache works!
For starters, despite being called a web server, it is not exactly one. Instead, it is software that runs on the server. It is a cross-platform software, which means it is capable of working on both Windows and Unix.
Apache establishes a connection between a user’s browser (e.g. Google) and a server. It maintains the client-server structure by sending and receiving files between the client and the server.
Let’s look at an example. You are on the website of a digital agency, looking to hire them for your next project. Before you make a choice, you want to get to know their agency better. Naturally, you’ll click on the About Us page.
When you do that, your browser will send a request to their server, and that’s when Apache sends you a response with all the files you requested, including all the text on the About Us page, as well as any images or video files. The main communication between your browser and the server is done through an HTML protocol, whereas Apache ensures that this communication remains seamless, smooth, and secure.
As mentioned earlier, Apache is a highly customizable server. It operates on a functional module-based structure, which means that server administrators can access additional functionalities if they want. Apache has many modules that improve your web server experience. These include password authentication, rewriting, URL, caching, and security.
Gzip compression and decompression
Perl, PHP, Lua scripts
Handling of static files
Loadable dynamic modules
Compatible with IPv6
Geolocation based on IP address
For many websites, Apache is an indispensable component that not only maintains the technical side of things but also facilitates a smooth user experience. If you ever plan to build your own website, you should keep what you have learned today in mind.