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Early Web-based Applications

Bulletin Board Services enabled small communities of users sharing a specific interest, regardless of geographic location, to dial-in to an application. BBS allowed users to:
Bulletin board services: An electronic message database where people can log in, read, and leave messages.
  1. Meet virtually
  2. Share information
  3. Conduct transactions, albeit in an informal fashion

Earlier Computing Models

In earlier computing models such as client-server, the processing load for the application was shared between code on the server and code installed on each client locally. In other words, an application had its own pre-compiled client program which served as its user interface and had to be separately installed on a user's personal computer. An upgrade to the server-side code of the application would typically also require an upgrade to the client-side code installed on each user workstation, adding to the support cost and decreasing productivity. In addition, both the client and server components of the application were usually tightly bound to a particular computer architecture and operating system. Porting them to others was often prohibitively expensive for all but the largest applications.

Web Applications

In contrast, web applications use web documents written in a standard format such as HTML and JavaScript, which are supported by a variety of web browsers. Web applications can be considered as a specific variant of client-server software where the client software is downloaded to the client machine when visiting the relevant web page. Client web software updates may happen each time the web page is visited. During the session, the web browser interprets and displays the pages, and acts as the universal client for any web application. In the early days of the Web, each individual web page was delivered to the client as a static document, but the sequence of pages could still provide an interactive experience, as user input was returned from the web form elements embedded in the page markup. However, every significant change to the web page required a round trip back to the server to refresh the entire page. In 1995, Netscape introduced a client-side scripting language called JavaScript allowing programmers to add some dynamic elements to the user interface that ran on the client side. So instead of sending data to the server in order to generate an entire web page, the embedded scripts of the downloaded page can perform various tasks such as input validation.

An early attempt at an inter-organizational transaction system was Electronic data interchange (EDI) [1] allowed organizations to automate order and payment processing.
Electronic data interchange (EDI): Transferring data between different companies using networks, such as the Internet.
Electronic Data Interchange
Electronic Data Interchange

EDI Standards

The EDI process requires that business documents be in a standard format. The first instances of EDI relied upon proprietary formats to exchange business documents. Wal-Mart and K-Mart used proprietary formats when they first implemented EDI (Choudhury, 1997). The problem with proprietary standards is that it is difficult to exchange transactions with many trading partners because of all the format conversions. Having standard formats for business documents means that all trading partners can understand the document structure and interpret it correctly.
There are two major sets of standards for EDI: the American National Standards Institute Accredited Standards Committee X12 (ANSI ASC X12, or more usually, X12) standard, and the United Nations Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce, and Transport (EDIFACT) standard.
[1]EDI and BBS were exceptions in a world filled with island-like Web-based applications.