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HTTP: The Definitive Guide by Brian Totty, Marjorie Sayer, Sailu Reddy, Anshu Aggarwal, David Gourley

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Chapter 1. Overview of HTTP

The world's web browsers, servers, and related web applications all talk to each other through HTTP, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. HTTP is the common language of the modern global Internet.

This chapter is a concise overview of HTTP. You'll see how web applications use HTTP to communicate, and you'll get a rough idea of how HTTP does its job. In particular, we talk about:

  • How web clients and servers communicate

  • Where resources (web content) come from

  • How web transactions work

  • The format of the messages used for HTTP communication

  • The underlying TCP network transport

  • The different variations of the HTTP protocol

  • Some of the many HTTP architectural components installed around the Internet

We've got a lot of ground to cover, so let's get started on our tour of HTTP.

HTTP: The Internet's Multimedia Courier

Billions of JPEG images, HTML pages, text files, MPEG movies, WAV audio files, Java applets, and more cruise through the Internet each and every day. HTTP moves the bulk of this information quickly, conveniently, and reliably from web servers all around the world to web browsers on people's desktops.

Because HTTP uses reliable data-transmission protocols, it guarantees that your data will not be damaged or scrambled in transit, even when it comes from the other side of the globe. This is good for you as a user, because you can access information without worrying about its integrity. Reliable transmission is also good for you as an Internet application developer, because you don't have to worry about HTTP communications being destroyed, duplicated, or distorted in transit. You can focus on programming the distinguishing details of your application, without worrying about the flaws and foibles of the Internet.

Let's look more closely at how HTTP transports the Web's traffic.

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