Web application vs. website: What's the difference?.

Clarity on web applications by exploring the differences to regular websites, the advantages and disadvantages, and highlighting some common examples.

What is a web application?

A web application or “web app” is software used via a web browser over the Internet. Unlike traditional desktop applications, which you download and run on your operating system, web applications are accessed through a web browser.

Web applications are often built to perform specific tasks or functions, such as email services (e.g. Gmail), document editing (e.g. Google Docs), or online retail sales (e.g. Amazon).

Web applications differ from websites in that they don’t just present information, but instead allow users to create, update, and manage data, thereby enhancing business productivity and efficiency.

The lines between web applications and websites aren’t always clear. Many largely informational websites contain web application elements, like contact forms or booking widgets. Similarly, many web applications can be used like websites. For example, YouTube is a web application for those who create and upload video content, but a website to the majority of visitors who just watch videos.

Which is better, a web application or website?

Choosing between a web application and website isn’t a case of choosing between better and worse. They’re just different things. Depending on your needs and goals, you may want one over the other.

Websites are primarily informational and are best suited for content consumption. So if you just want to give people information about a product or service, along with photos of your work and ways to contact your business, you’d just need a website.

Web applications facilitate user interaction and engagement, offering functionality like data manipulation and task execution. If your objective is to offer interactive online services, personalised user experiences, or to streamline internal processes, a web application would be what you need.

What are the advantages of a web app over a website?

Web applications offer several advantages over traditional websites:

What are web application examples?

Numerous examples of web applications exist, showcasing their diverse functionalities and use-cases. Google Docs allows users to create, edit, and store documents online, enabling real-time collaboration. Trello, a project management tool, helps teams organise tasks and milestones. Shopify offers a platform for building online stores, facilitating eCommerce functionalities.

These examples underscore how web applications can cater to different needs, from document editing and project management to online retail, but you probably also use several other web applications routinely for things like online banking, buying groceries, price comparisons, and entertainment.

Is YouTube a website or a web application?

YouTube can be classified as both a website and a web application. It serves as a website by providing informational content and videos for users to browse and watch. However, it also exhibits characteristics of a web application, offering features such as video uploading, commenting, liking, and personalised content recommendations, thereby enabling user interaction and engagement, which are hallmarks of web applications.

Is Instagram a website or an application?

Instagram is primarily known as a mobile application, but it also has a web version, making it both an application and a website. The mobile application offers more features and functionalities, such as uploading new content, which are more limited on the web version. However, both versions allow users to browse, like, and comment on posts, showcasing characteristics of web applications through user interactivity and personalised experiences.

Is Google a website or web application?

Google serves as both a website and a web application. As a search engine, it acts as a website, providing information and links in response to user queries. However, it also offers various interactive features and services like Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Sheets, which are web applications designed to help users create, store, and collaborate on documents and data online.

Is Facebook a website or web application?

Facebook embodies characteristics of both a website and a web application. As a social media platform, users can consume content, making it a website. However, its myriad of interactive features such as posting status updates, sharing photos, commenting, and messaging, exemplify the functionalities of a web application, designed to foster user engagement and interaction. This duality illustrates how the line between websites and web applications can often blur, with many platforms incorporating elements of both.