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In my mind a webapp is any website that has some complicated features and that's served from the web, but I know there are people who are a lot smarter than me here and they'll point out other features that I'm not noticing. For example:

  • If it doesn't have a login system, can I still call it a webapp? (because most webapps end up being user-based).
  • Should I think of a CMS as a webapp? and how about the sites that are built with it? probably they're not webapps, right?
  • Is Gmail a webapp? I think so.
  • Is twitter a webapp? Yes, though the functionality is rather simple.

So what conditions need to be met to call a website a webapp?

P.S. StackExchange's tag system defines web-applications as

applications that are accessed over the "web", which can mean the Internet, or an internal network (an intranet).

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At what level of complexity does that glob of code you just wrote qualify to be called a "program?" – Blrfl Jun 14 '12 at 14:09
@Blrfl Yes, I guess that's what it boils down to, but shouldn't we establish some guidelines. A junior developer might look at their simple code and think their glob of code is pretty awesome and deserves to be called a webapp. A senior developer probably writes more complicated code than found in most webapps. That's why having some rough guidelines is important. – sameold Jun 14 '12 at 14:13
What benefit would there be in establishing a formal, complexity-based definition of the term? Given that technology evolves, would that definition have to change every few years? Would a state-of-the-art "web app" I wrote in 1995 be stripped of its "web app" status, or could I still call it a "1995 web app?" – Blrfl Jun 14 '12 at 14:28

There is only one requirement - a program running on some server that responds to HTTP requests. All the rest is just hype and vague marketing catch phrases.

In other words, an application (program) that runs over the web (HTTP).

If this doesn't answer your question, then it doesn't belong in programming Q&A, but in marketing.

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Based on your answer, I guess the question is what makes a website a (program) :) Today's regular websites can offer some complicated functionality, so by this logic, are most websites today considered webapps? – sameold Jun 14 '12 at 14:09
+1 for calling the marketing department to leverage those strategic synergies. – Blrfl Jun 14 '12 at 14:24
@sameold A lot of websites generate output (visible content) simply by reading from local HTML files, wrapping them with an HTTP response and sending them over a socket. This is done automatically by programs such as Apache. Generally, in the world of web hype, a web application is one that dynamically generates content from say, user input, databases and stuff like that. And let's not forget, uses the latest bleeding edge feature-bloated framework, in object-oriented or functional languages, and... the most important feature - it requires browser plugins. :) – Yam Marcovic Jun 14 '12 at 15:03

It's somewhat contextual. In general, it's any application that interfaces over the web.

However, if you are talking about a webapp in the context of Java, it is implied that it's an application that, at minimum, conforms to the Java Servlet Specification. In other contexts, it might have other implications.

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