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2.1. What Is a Platform?

The term platform has multiple meanings in web application circles, depending on how you slice the computing world. Typically, a platform denotes any hardware and/or software system that forms the basis for further product development. Operating system developers regard each microprocessor family as a platform (Pentium, PowerPC, or SPARC CPUs, for example); desktop computer application developers treat the operating system as the platform (Win16, Windows 95/NT, MacOS8, Unix, Linux, and the rest); peripherals makers perceive a combination of hardware and operating system as the platform (for example, a Wintel machine or a Macintosh).

The de facto acceptance of the web protocols, such as HTTP, means that a web application developer doesn't have to worry about the underlying network transport protocols that are being used. Theoretically, all client computers equipped with browsers that support the web protocols—regardless of the operating system or CPU—should be treated as a single platform. The real world, however, doesn't work that way.


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