Chapter 2. HTTP and Servlet Basics

Let’s start off this chapter by defining the term web application. We’ve all seen regular client-side applications, but what exactly is a web application? Loosely, it can be defined as an application running on a server a user accesses through a thin, general-purpose client. Today, the most common client is a web browser on a PC or workstation, but other kinds of clients are rapidly joining the party, such as wireless PDAs, cell phones, and other specialized devices.

The lofty goal here is to access all the information and services you need from any type of device that happens to be in front of you. This means that the same simple client program must be able to talk to many different server applications, and the applications must be able to work with many different types of clients. To satisfy this need, the protocol of how a client and a server talk to each other must be defined in detail. That’s exactly what the HyperText Transport Protocol (HTTP) is for.

The communication model defined by HTTP forms the foundation for all web application design. A basic understanding of HTTP is key to developing applications that fit within the constraints of the protocol, no matter which server-side technology you use. In this chapter, we look at the most important details of HTTP you need to be aware of as a web application developer.

One other item: this book is about using JSP as the server-side technology, so that’s what we’ll focus on. As you saw ...

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