Understanding HTTP and its Functioning

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HTTP and its Functioning

The complete form of HTTP is HyperText Transfer Protocol. Since the early days of development during the 1990s, HTTP has now become a central part of our lives. From work to education and even entertainment, everything is using the Internet, and to access the contents of the Internet securely, the network uses HTTP. One of the principles behind the creation of the web is to bring in openness in addition to the disclosure and standardization of the rules by which applications are bound to operate and interact with one another.

With the presence of openness, you are enabling interoperability that allows applications from different developers to adhere to a specific set of rules to work correctly and even reliably with each other. For all this work to be done correctly, HTTP is the one protocol that needs to be used. Today, in this article, we are going to discuss the importance of HTTP, the benefits of using HTTP, and how it works. So let’s get started!

Working of HTTP

The working of HTTP takes between the client and the devices and servers, which makes the Internet work. The client devices are used to send the request to the servers for the resources that are needed to be uploaded to the browser. For this, the server will send the response back to the client’s computer to complete the request. Both the requests and the responses use sub-documentation such as data present in the image, texts that are being sent, text layout, and more. All of them are pieced together by the client’s web browser to display the entire web page file on your browser.

On the other hand, HTTP can also serve its services to the web server that contains the HTTP daemon. This program is used when the server is waiting for the HTTP requests, and this is the program that handles the requests when they arrive at the server. A web browser can also be considered as an HTTP client that sends requests to the server.

When a user from the client side enters the request on the web browser by typing in the URL, or even by clicking on the hypertext link, the browser will start building up the HTTP request, and then it sends this request to the Internet Protocol, which is indicated by the URL. After that, in the destination server, the HTTP daemon will receive that request and will give the appropriate response for the requested files. That is associated with the request in the first place.

Example of How HTTP Works

Let’s dig a little deeper and see how they can visit this page on the Internet using the HTTP protocol. First, you type in the web address of our website on the web browser of your choice. Once you hit the Enter key after typing the URL of the website, the computer sends the “GET” request to the server where we host our website. The GET request to the hosting server is sent via HTTP. This will tell our server that you are requesting the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) code. This code is used for providing the structure, design, colors, images, text, and other essential things that you see on our web page that you have requested.

Keep in mind that the text and the login details are a part of the HTML response; the other parts of the web page, mainly images and videos, are requested by the separate HTTP requests and responses. The more complex page you are requesting from the server, the more requests your web browser is sending to the server. As a result, it may take some time for the whole web page to upload. That’s one of the reasons why most websites are plain and simple. To make the uploading speed of the website as fast as possible.

When these responses and requests are sent in the form of pairs, they take the help of TCP/ IP to reduce the bulk of the information in small packets of binary sequences of ones and zeros. These packets are then sent through the physical wire, such as the optical fiber and wireless networks.

Moreover, both the request and the response are used by clients and servers, respectively. To share the data with one another consists of ASCII code. The requests help in finding the type of information a client is seeking from the server. On the other hand, the server’s response comes with the code that the web browser on the client’s side will use to translate the code into a human-readable web page.

Components of Systems that Work with HTTP

As we said earlier, HTTP works on the principle of a client-server model. Here the requests are sent to the server by one entity via a user agent. The user agent here is a proxy that sends the requests to the server on behalf of the client. In most cases, the user agent is the web browser you are using to open up the web page. But it could be anything; for example, it could even be a robot that crawls the web page to put websites and webpages in the order of the relevance on the search engine result page.

Between the client and the server, there are several other entities that make the request and the response cycle possible between the two. All these entities are collectively known as proxies that perform a particular set of tasks specified to them. It also acts as a gateway or cache. In truth, there are more computers present between the client and the server. When the request is sent to the server, there are routers, modems, ISPs, and more. HTTP is present on the top, and it is housed in the application layer.

Client: The One Who Sends the Requests

The client can take help from any user agent on behalf of the user. Your web browser is one of the user agents, but the same task can be done by other programs used by engineers and web developers. Who is looking to debug the applications? The browser is always the one who initiates the request. With modernization, a server can also simulate a server-side-initiated message.

Web Server

Web servers are located on the other side of the connection. It is used to store all the information that you need when you open the web page. A server might appear to be a single machine when you view it virtually. But, if we look at its physical body, it is a collection of servers that share the load. Or they are also working with the complex piece of software for interrogating other computers present on the network. The web server can partially or fully generate the document that you have requested.

Keep in mind that a server is not generally a single machine. But you can host many websites, software, and other forms of information in a single machine. With the implementation of HTTP/1.1 along with the host header, the servers can share the same IP address as well.

Proxies

As we said, between the web browser and the server, there are many computers and machines present. These machines will help in relaying the HTTP message. Due to the layered structure of the web stack, most of these are operated at the transport, network, or even on physical levels. Then at the HTTP layer, they become transparent and have a significant impact on the performance of the network.

The machines that are present on the application layer are more commonly known as proxies. They are transparent, meaning they don’t do anything to the request and the response when forwarding them to their destinations. Given below are the main functions which a proxy might be performing during the client-server communication of HTTP.

  • Caching, the cache can be both public or private, depending on which software you are using to browse the information.
  • Filtering out the content could be an antivirus or parental control software.
  • Balancing out the load will allow multiple servers to serve different requests.
  • Authentication procedure to give control access to additional resources.
  • Logging the information about the sites you are visiting. So you can recall them when needed from history.

Benefits of Using HTTP

HTTP is Simple

HTTP is a markup language that is designed in such a way that it is simple and easily readable by humans, even after adding more complexity with the introduction of HTTP/2, which encapsulates HTTP messages into frames. As a result, anyone with a bit of knowledge of computer science programming languages can go through the code written in HTTP to understand what is going on. This makes the job of the testers much easier, and newcomers can quickly learn to write source code for the website using HTTP.

HTTP is Extensible

With the introduction of HTTP/1.0, the markup language got HTTP headers which made this protocol favorable for extending and experimenting. Even new functionality can be introduced with a simple agreement between the client and the server about the new semantics for the headers.

HTTP is Bound to Be Stateless

There is no link between the two requests, which are sent using HTTP. Even if these two requests are carried out on the same connection, this could be a problem for those users who are aiming to interact with particular pages coherently. For example, using e-commerce shopping baskets. Even though from the core, HTTP is stateless, even then, with the use of cookies, users can have stateful sessions. With the help of header extensibility, we can add HTTP cookies to the workflow. This will help in the creation of sessions on each of the HTTP requests to share the same context or the same state.

Addressing

HTTP uses the advanced scheme for addressing. It assigns the IP address with recognizable names so that it becomes easier for the user to identify it when they are working on the Internet. When we compare it to the standard procedure of the IP address that has a series of numbers, the HTTP addressing is a much more convenient way for users as a whole.

Security Features

When you use HTTP, each file that you download comes from an independent connection, and once the file is downloaded, the connection will close. As a result, no more than one single element of the webpage gets transferred to your system. This makes attacking your computer from HTTP connections a lot more complicated.

Minimized Latency

Once the connection is in its place, only then the handshaking process will occur in HTTP. That way, when your system is sending the request to the server, there will be no handshaking procedure waiting to get approved. This results in the significant minimization of latency in the client-server HTTP connection.

Accessibility

When you load up a new page for the first time, all the information and the files of the page will be stored in your Internet cache. That is also known as web page cache. Thus, when you visit the page once again, the contents of the page will take less time to load as they are already present in your cache.

Issues with HTTP

As everything has its own benefits and disadvantages. In the same way, even HTTP carries some issues that need to be taken care of when using it for accessing the Internet.

Data Integrity Problem

With HTTP, you are not getting any encryption methods to keep your data secured. That makes it easier for an attacker to alter the data which is being sent to you. This makes HTTP an insecure way of sending the data over the Internet, which leads to a loss of data integrity.

Data Privacy

HTTP connections have a long fight in keeping the data private. If an attacker is able to intercept the request, your system is sending it to the server. It can easily view all the contents that are present on the web page. Besides, you will also see the attackers having confidential information such as the username and the password of the site you are trying to access.

Loss of Server Availability

Even when the HTTP receives all the data it needs from the server’s end, the client’s system does not take any responsibility for closing the connection. This makes the server lose the link to the other users who are waiting to receive a response to their requests.

IoT Device Support

HTTP is the one protocol that uses more system resources to get the job done. As a result, it consumes more power, and with modern technology, most of the devices are now wireless, making HTTP not suitable for use.

Conclusion

So this was all about HTTP, the importance of using HTTP, the benefits of using HTTP, the disadvantages related to HTTP, and how HTTP works. If you still have any doubts or queries related to HTTP, write to us in the comments section.

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