HTTP - Technical Overview

Technical Overview

HTTP functions as a request-response protocol in the client-server computing model. A web browser, for example, may be the client and an application running on a computer hosting a web site may be the server. The client submits an HTTP request message to the server. The server, which provides resources such as HTML files and other content, or performs other functions on behalf of the client, returns a response message to the client. The response contains completion status information about the request and may also contain requested content in its message body.

A web browser is an example of a user agent (UA). Other types of user agent include the indexing software used by search providers (web crawlers), voice browsers, mobile apps and other software that accesses, consumes or displays web content.

HTTP is designed to permit intermediate network elements to improve or enable communications between clients and servers. High-traffic websites often benefit from web cache servers that deliver content on behalf of upstream servers to improve response time. Web browsers cache previously accessed web resources and reuse them when possible to reduce network traffic. HTTP proxy servers at private network boundaries can facilitate communication for clients without a globally routable address, by relaying messages with external servers.

HTTP is an application layer protocol designed within the framework of the Internet Protocol Suite. Its definition presumes an underlying and reliable transport layer protocol, and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) predominates for this purpose. However HTTP can use unreliable protocols such as the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), for example in Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP).

HTTP resources are identified and located on the network by Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs)—or, more specifically, Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)—using the http or https URI schemes. URIs and hyperlinks in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) documents form webs of inter-linked hypertext documents. On the Internet the World Wide Web was established in 1990 by English computer scientist and innovator Tim Berners-Lee.

HTTP/1.1 is a revision of the original HTTP (HTTP/1.0). In HTTP/1.0 a separate connection to the same server is made for every resource request. HTTP/1.1 can reuse a connection multiple times to download images, scripts, stylesheets et cetera after the page has been delivered. HTTP/1.1 communications therefore experience less latency as the establishment of TCP connections presents considerable overhead.

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