Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Overview of HTTP Request Methods

HTTP defines methods (sometimes referred to as verbs) to indicate the desired action to be performed on the identified resource. What this resource represents, whether pre-existing data or data that is generated dynamically, depends on the implementation of the server. Often, the resource corresponds to a file or the output of an executable residing on the server.

The HTTP/1.0 specification section  defined the GET, POST and HEAD methods and the HTTP/1.1 specification section  added 5 new methods: OPTIONS, PUT, DELETE, TRACE and CONNECT. By being specified in these documents their semantics are well known and can be depended upon. Any client can use any method and the server can be configured to support any combination of methods. If a method is unknown to an intermediate it will be treated as an unsafe and non-idempotent method

Requests a representation of the specified resource. Requests using GET should only retrieve data and should have no other effect.
Asks for the response identical to the one that would correspond to a GET request, but without the response body. This is useful for retrieving meta-information written in response headers, without having to transport the entire content.
Requests that the server accept the entity enclosed in the request as a new subordinate of the web resource identified by the URI. The data POSTed might be, as examples, an annotation for existing resources; a message for a bulletin board, newsgroup, mailing list, or comment thread; a block of data that is the result of submitting a web form to a data-handling process; or an item to add to a database
Requests that the enclosed entity be stored under the supplied URI. If the URI refers to an already existing resource, it is modified; if the URI does not point to an existing resource, then the server can create the resource with that URI.
Deletes the specified resource.
Echoes back the received request so that a client can see what (if any) changes or additions have been made by intermediate servers.
Returns the HTTP methods that the server supports for specified URL. This can be used to check the functionality of a web server by requesting '*' instead of a specific resource.
Converts the request connection to a transparent TCP/IP tunnel, usually to facilitate SSL-encrypted communication (HTTPS) through an unencrypted HTTP proxy.[14][15]
Is used to apply partial modifications to a resource.
HTTP servers are required to implement at least the GET and HEAD methods and, whenever possible, also the OPTIONS method.

Safe methods
Implementers should be aware that the software represents the user in their interactions over the Internet, and should be careful to allow the user to be aware of any actions they might take which may have an unexpected significance to themselves or others.
In particular, the convention has been established that the GET and HEAD methods SHOULD NOT have the significance of taking an action other than retrieval. These methods ought to be considered "safe". This allows user agents to represent other methods, such as POST, PUT and DELETE, in a special way, so that the user is made aware of the fact that a possibly unsafe action is being requested.
Naturally, it is not possible to ensure that the server does not generate side-effects as a result of performing a GET request; in fact, some dynamic resources consider that a feature. The important distinction here is that the user did not request the side-effects, so therefore cannot be held accountable for them.

Idempotent methods
Methods can also have the property of "idempotence" in that (aside from error or expiration issues) the side-effects of N > 0 identical requests is the same as for a single request. The methods GET, HEAD, PUT and DELETE share this property. Also, the methods OPTIONS and TRACE SHOULD NOT have side effects, and so are inherently idempotent.
However, it is possible that a sequence of several requests is non- idempotent, even if all of the methods executed in that sequence are idempotent. (A sequence is idempotent if a single execution of the entire sequence always yields a result that is not changed by a reexecution of all, or part, of that sequence.) For example, a sequence is non-idempotent if its result depends on a value that is later modified in the same sequence.
A sequence that never has side effects is idempotent, by definition (provided that no concurrent operations are being executed on the same set of resources).

Persistent connections
In HTTP/0.9 and 1.0, the connection is closed after a single request/response pair. In HTTP/1.1 a keep-alive-mechanism was introduced, where a connection could be reused for more than one request. Such persistent connections reduce request latency perceptibly, because the client does not need to re-negotiate the TCP connection after the first request has been sent. Another positive side effect is that in general the connection becomes faster with time due to TCP's slow-start-mechanism.
Version 1.1 of the protocol also made bandwidth optimization improvements to HTTP/1.0. For example, HTTP/1.1 introduced chunked transfer encoding to allow content on persistent connections to be streamed rather than buffered. HTTP pipelining further reduces lag time, allowing clients to send multiple requests before waiting for each response. Another improvement to the protocol was byte serving, where a server transmits just the portion of a resource explicitly requested by a client.

Enjoy Learning.

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