Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How HTTP Keep Alive works?

HTTP Keep Alive
Http Keep-Alive seems to be massively misunderstood. Here's a short description of how it works, under both 1.0 and 1.1, with some added information about how Java handles it.

Http operates on what is called a request-response paradigm. This means that a _client_ generates a request for information, and passes it to the server, which answers it. In the original implementation of HTTP, each request created a new socket connection to the server, sent the request, then read from that connection to get the response.

This approach had one big advantage - it was simple. Simple to describe, simple to understand, and simple to code. It also had one big disadvantage - it was slow. So, keep-alive connections were invented for HTTP.

Under HTTP 1.0, there is no official specification for how keepalive operates. It was, in essence, tacked on to an existing protocol. If the browser supports keep-alive, it adds an additional header to the request:

Connection: Keep-Alive

Then, when the server receives this request and generates a response, it also adds a header to the response:

Connection: Keep-Alive

Following this, the connection is NOT dropped, but is instead kept open. When the client sends another request, it uses the same connection. This will continue until either the client or the server decides that the conversation is over, and one of them drops the connection.

Under HTTP 1.1, the official keepalive method is different. All connections are kept alive, unless stated otherwise with the following header:

Connection: close

The Connection: Keep-Alive header no longer has any meaning because of this.

Additionally, an optional Keep-Alive: header is described, but is so underspecified as to be meaningless. Avoid it.

Curtsey: http://www.io.com/~maus/HttpKeepAlive.html

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