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Difference Between Java Servlets and CGI

In the realm of web development, Java Servlets and CGI (Common Gateway Interface) are two different technologies that serve a common purpose: handling dynamic content on the web. However, they have distinct characteristics, and understanding their differences is crucial for developers. In this section, we will delve into the differences between Java Servlets and CGI, providing clear explanations and complete code examples for each.

Java Servlets

Java Servlets are Java-based programs that extend the functionality of a web server to generate dynamic content. Servlets are managed by the Java Servlet Container, a part of the web server or a separate application server. The servlet container communicates with the servlet through the Java Servlet API.

Here's a simple example of a Java Servlet:


The HelloServlet class extends HttpServlet and is annotated with @WebServlet to define its URL mapping.

The doGet method is invoked when a client sends an HTTP GET request to the servlet. In this example, it sets the content type to HTML and sends a simple greeting message.

Common Gateway Interface (CGI)

CGI is a standard protocol that allows web servers to execute external programs or scripts to generate dynamic content. CGI scripts can be written in various programming languages, such as Perl, Python, or even shell scripts. Unlike Java Servlets, CGI is language-agnostic.

Here's a basic example of a CGI script written in Perl:


The shebang (#!/usr/bin/perl) indicates that this script should be executed using the Perl interpreter.

The Content-type header is crucial in CGI to specify the type of content being returned (in this case, HTML).



Servlets are generally faster than CGI scripts. Servlet containers maintain a pool of servlet instances, eliminating the need to create a new process for each request.

CGI scripts create a new process for every request, resulting in higher overhead.

Language Dependency

Servlets are Java-specific, requiring developers to use the Java programming language.

CGI is language-agnostic, allowing developers to use different languages for scripting.

Resource Usage

Servlets consume less system resources compared to CGI scripts due to the servlet container's efficient management.

CGI scripts may lead to higher resource usage as each script execution involves launching a new process.

Key Differences Between Java Servlets and CGI

Feature Java Servlets CGI
Language Dependency Java-specific Language-agnostic (supports multiple languages like Perl, Python, etc.)
Performance Generally faster due to servlet container management Tends to have higher overhead as it creates a new process for each request
Resource Usage More efficient due to servlet container's management of instances Can lead to higher resource usage as each script execution involves launching a new process
Development and Deployment Requires Java development skills and servlet container deployment Allows developers to use various scripting languages; simpler deployment process
Concurrency Supports multithreading and efficient resource utilization Limited concurrency due to the creation of a new process for each request
Scalability Generally more scalable due to efficient resource utilization May face scalability challenges due to the overhead of creating new processes
Portability Java Servlet API is consistent across different servlet containers Can be less portable as different servers may have different CGI implementations
State Management Built-in support for session management and state persistence Stateless by default; state management needs to be handled explicitly
Common Use Cases Enterprise-level web applications, dynamic content generation Lightweight scripts, simple web applications, or when language flexibility is required

These differences should help you to understand the key distinctions between Java Servlets and CGI, aiding in the selection of the appropriate technology based on specific project requirements and constraints.


Understanding the differences between Java Servlets and CGI is essential for choosing the right technology for web development projects. While Servlets offer better performance and resource efficiency, CGI provides language flexibility. Developers should consider project requirements, performance expectations, and language preferences when deciding between these two technologies.

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