You might now be wondering: “So, what is the difference between a so-called website and a web application”. First, we’ll start with some basic definitions, and then we’ll dive into some detail to illustrate the sometimes nebulous difference between the two.
Website: A static, HTML-based, informational page that does not afford interaction beyond end-user navigation
Web Application: An interactive, dynamic, online tool that allows end-user manipulation or production of content; also known as a Rich Internet Application
You have probably heard the term website thrown around in conversation, and usually, it is used incorrectly.
For many people, the internet and website development are still relatively new phenomena, and whenever this is the case, catchall terms tend to arise and proliferate quickly. Such is the situation with the term website.
While the word may seem to encapsulate everything you have ever dealt with on the internet, it is time to join the minority who understand its true meaning. Let’s take the example of an online publication, such as The Globe and Mail, to better understand the difference. This is an easy one to grasp because, just as the newspaper’s objective is to provide information for its reader base, the purpose of its website is simply to display that information for its online market—and that’s just it: A website is a space on the internet whose purpose is only to display information.
A website is a space on the internet whose purpose is only to display information.
Let’s think about another example. Say it’s late at night and you’re looking to grab a last-minute meal from a good restaurant in your area. You’ve heard of a good Italian joint on your block and need to know its hours, menu, and phone number, so you perform a Google search and navigate to its website. The page is beautiful and looks very intricate—you briefly forget about your hunger and stare in awe at a beautiful web page; however, looks can of course be deceiving and that is the take-away from this example. Though a website may be beautifully crafted with rich text, images, and so on, it is only there to display information, such as variations on meatball subs, contact information, open hours, and an address.
Rich Internet Application differs from a website in that it allows end-users to interact with its content or create unique content.
You might now be asking the question: “Isn’t a Rich Internet Application then also a website?” Unfortunately, the answer is both yes and no.
So, now you can take pride in understanding the difference between a website and a Rich Internet Application. The former’s purpose is simply to display information, and the latter’s is to enable end-user interaction.