Most SQL database engines are implemented as a separate server process. Programs that want to access the database communicate with the server using some kind of interprocess communication (typically TCP/IP) to send requests to the server and to receive back results. SQLite does not work this way. With SQLite, the process that wants to access the database reads and writes directly from the database files on disk. There is no intermediary server process.
There are advantages and disadvantages to being serverless. The main advantage is that there is no separate server process to install, setup, configure, initialize, manage, and troubleshoot. This is one reason why SQLite is a "zero-configuration" database engine. Programs that use SQLite require no administrative support for setting up the database engine before they are run. Any program that is able to access the disk is able to use an SQLite database.
On the other hand, a database engine that uses a server can provide better protection from bugs in the client application - stray pointers in a client cannot corrupt memory on the server. And because a server is a single persistent process, it is able to control database access with more precision, allowing for finer-grained locking and better concurrency.
Most SQL database engines are client/server based. Of those that are serverless, SQLite is the only one known to this author that allows multiple applications to access the same database at the same time.
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