In computing, an applet is any small application that performs one specific task that runs within the scope of a dedicated widget engine or a larger program, often as a plug-in.[1][2] The term is frequently used to refer to a Java applet, a program written in the Java programming language that is designed to be placed on a web page. Applets are typical examples of transient and auxiliary applications that don't monopolize the user's attention. Applets are not full-featured application programs, and are intended to be easily accessible.[2]


The word applet was first used in 1990 in PC Magazine.[3] However, the concept of an applet, or more broadly a small interpreted program downloaded and executed by the user, dates at least to RFC 5 (1969) by Jeff Rulifson, which described the Decode-Encode Language (DEL), which was designed to allow remote use of the oN-Line System (NLS) over ARPANET, by downloading small programs to enhance the interaction.[4] This has been specifically credited as a forerunner of Java's downloadable programs in RFC 2555.[5]

Applet as an extension of other software

In some cases, an applet does not run independently. These applets must run either in a container provided by a host program, through a plugin, or a variety of other applications including mobile devices that support the applet programming model.

Web-based Applets

Applets are used to provide interactive features to web applications that cannot be provided by HTML alone. They can capture mouse input and also have controls like buttons or check boxes. In response to the user action an applet can change the provided graphic content. This makes applets well suitable for demonstration, visualization, and teaching. There are online applet collections for studying various subjects, from physics[6] to heart physiology.[7] Applets are also used to create online game collections that allow players to compete against live opponents in real-time.

An applet can also be a text area only, providing, for instance, a cross platform command-line interface to some remote system.[8] If needed, an applet can leave the dedicated area and run as a separate window. However, applets have very little control over web page content outside the applet dedicated area, so they are less useful for improving the site appearance in general (while applets like news tickers[9] or WYSIWYG editors[10] are also known). Applets can also play media in formats that are not natively supported by the browser[11]

HTML pages may embed parameters that are passed to the applet. Hence the same applet may appear differently depending on the parameters that were passed.

Examples of Web-based Applets include:

Applet Vs. Subroutine

A larger application distinguishes its applets through several features:

Java Applet

Main article: Java Applet

A Java Applet is a java program that is launched from HTML and run in a web browser. It can provide web applications with interactive features that cannot be provided by HTML. Since Java's bytecode is platform-independent, Java applets can be executed by browsers running under many platforms, including Windows, Unix, macOS, and Linux. When a Java technology-enabled web browser processes a page that contains an applet, the applet's code is transferred to the client's system and executed by the browser's Java Virtual Machine (JVM).[12] An HTML page references an applet either via the deprecated <applet> tag or via its replacement, the <object> tag.[13]


Recent developments in the coding of applications including mobile and embedded systems have led to the awareness of the security of applets.

Open Platform Applets

Applets in an open platform environment should provide secure interactions between different applications. A compositional approach can be used to provide security for open platform applets.[14] Advanced compositional verification methods have been developed for secure applet interactions.[14]

Java Applets

A Java applet contains different security models: unsigned Java applet security, signed Java applet security, and self signed Java applet security.

Web-based Applets

In an applet-enabled web browser, many methods can be used to provide applet security for malicious applets. A malicious applet can infect a computer system in many ways, including denial of service, invasion of privacy, and annoyance.[15] A typical solution for malicious applets is to make the web browser to monitor applets' activities. This will result in a web browser that will enable the manual or automatic stopping of malicious applets. To illustrate this method, AppletGuard was used to observe and control any applet in a browser successfully.[15]

See also


  1. "AskOxford: applet", Oxford Dictionaries. Accessed on July 21, 2009
  2. 1 2 "applet: Definition from", Accessed on July 21, 2009
  3. "Oxford English Dictionary". 2011. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  4. Jeff Rulifson (June 2, 1969), "DEL", RFC 5, Network Working Group
  5. RFC Editor, et a. (April 7, 1999), "30 Years of RFCs", RFC 2555, Network Working Group
  6. Paul Falstad online applet portal
  7. The virtual hearth
  9., an applet that works as news ticker
  10., a company that produces applets acting as WYSWYG editor.
  11. Cortado applet to play ogg format
  12. "Applets", Sun Developer Network. Accessed on July 21, 2009
  13. "HTML applet tag", W3Schools. Access on July 21, 2009
  14. 1 2 Barthe, Gilles; Gurov, Dilian; Huisman, Marieke (2002). "Compositional Verification of Secure Applet Interactions" (PDF). CiteSeerX accessible. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  15. 1 2 Hassler, Vesna; Then, Oliver (1998). "Controlling Applets' Behavior in a Browser" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-04-10.

External links

Look up applet in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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