An Internet application, sometimes called a rich Internet application, is typically an interactive program that can be accessed through a web browser. These applications share many characteristics with desktop programs, but instead of a designated user interface, they use Internet browsers as tools to relay information. These applications often use plug-ins such as Java, Silverlight or Flash to make it easier for users to input information.
Internet applications are based on remote servers, which means that the programs that accept and process information are not run locally on the user's machine. This is the key difference between Internet and desktop applications, where all processing is done locally. For Internet applications, processing on the user's machine is typically minimal. When information is entered into the Internet application, it is sent along telecommunication lines to the server, where it is then processed and recorded. The server then sends revised information back to the Internet application for the user to review.
Different tools allow developers to create different kinds of Internet applications. Flash is ideal for making interactive picture or video applications such as simple browser games. Java is similar to Flash but allows for the creation of more complex objects and more versatile programming. Silverlight is used for some online streaming video applications. Each of these tools must be installed in the form of a browser plug-in.