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Does a web application have to live in a browser to be called a web application? Or is a thin client that uses a web service for most of it's functionality a web applicaiton?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes I would say a web application has to live in a browser. However, you can use web technologies to build something that is not a web application. Your thin client does not sound like a web app.

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It's getting pretty picky at that level, but personally I wouldn't call a thin client that uses web services for most of its processing a web application; I would probably call that more of a cloud application.

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A cloud application huh, I guess I wasn't really thinking of it that way... even for a service that isn't in the "cloud"? I guess that line is getting pretty hazy for my too... the difference between offering a service on the web and offering a "cloud application". +1 though thanks. – Beth Whitezel Apr 3 '11 at 20:05
Yeah, I suppose you're right, this wouldn't really be a cloud app (unless there was provisioning of computational resources on the server side). – Michelle Tilley Apr 3 '11 at 20:41

To be honest, I'd just call that a "client/server application". Doesn't sound much different to what people have been doing for decades, it's just using HTTP on port 80 rather than some hand-rolled protocol on some random port to do its client/server communications.

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From a layperson's perspective, I would say "yes". For my mother (as an example of a layperson who uses computers, but doesn't know much about them) using MS Outlook and using webservices through a thin client feels very similar. But, using a browser feels like "going online".

However, from a technical perspective and especially on the server side, there is very little real difference. So, from this perspective, I would say "no".

In the end, the answer depends on who you are talking to and what particular aspect of the application you are trying to emphasize. There is no single answer applicable in all situations.

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