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HTTP: The Definitive Guide (Definitive Guides) [Paperback]

by David Gourley, Brian Totty, Marjorie Sayer, Anshu Aggarwal, Sailu Reddy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 4, 2002 1565925092 978-1565925090 1

Behind every web transaction lies the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) --- the language of web browsers and servers, of portals and search engines, of e-commerce and web services. Understanding HTTP is essential for practically all web-based programming, design, analysis, and administration.

While the basics of HTTP are elegantly simple, the protocol's advanced features are notoriously confusing, because they knit together complex technologies and terminology from many disciplines. This book clearly explains HTTP and these interrelated core technologies, in twenty-one logically organized chapters, backed up by hundreds of detailed illustrations and examples, and convenient reference appendices. HTTP: The Definitive Guide explains everything people need to use HTTP efficiently -- including the "black arts" and "tricks of the trade" -- in a concise and readable manner.

In addition to explaining the basic HTTP features, syntax and guidelines, this book clarifies related, but often misunderstood topics, such as: TCP connection management, web proxy and cache architectures, web robots and robots.txt files, Basic and Digest authentication, secure HTTP transactions, entity body processing, internationalized content, and traffic redirection.

Many technical professionals will benefit from this book. Internet architects and developers who need to design and develop software, IT professionals who need to understand Internet architectural components and interactions, multimedia designers who need to publish and host multimedia, performance engineers who need to optimize web performance, technical marketing professionals who need a clear picture of core web architectures and protocols, as well as untold numbers of students and hobbyists will all benefit from the knowledge packed in this volume.

There are many books that explain how to use the Web, but this is the one that explains how the Web works. Written by experts with years of design and implementation experience, this book is the definitive technical bible that describes the "why" and the "how" of HTTP and web core technologies. HTTP: The Definitive Guide is an essential reference that no technically-inclined member of the Internet community should be without.

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HTTP: The Definitive Guide (Definitive Guides) + Debugging with Fiddler: The complete reference from the creator of the Fiddler Web Debugger
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Editorial Reviews


"I think this book is an extremely useful, very comprehensive and clearly-written reference to all aspects of the internals of the Web going well beyond just the bare mechanics of HTTP. Even where its huge detail does stop on a topic, there are extensive and useful references for further reading on each topic covered given at the end of nearly every chapter." - John Collins, News@UK, March 2003

About the Author

is the Chief Technology Officer of Endeca, where he leads the research and development of Endeca's knowledge navigation products. Prior to working at Endeca, David designed and developed core components of Inktomi's Internet-scale search database and was a senior developer of Inktomi's web caching products. David earned a Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley.

was a member of Inktomi Corporation's founding engineering team, and served as Inktomi's Vice President of R&D where he co-developed Inktomi's search engine database, and led the development of Inktomi's web caching and streaming media technologies. Formerly, he was a scientist at Silicon Graphics and at Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Group. Brian Totty has received several awards for research and teaching excellence, and holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a B.S. in Computer Science from M.I.T.

Product Details

  • Series: Definitive Guides
  • Paperback: 658 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (October 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565925092
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565925090
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and thorough - an excellent book! October 20, 2002
This book is more than just an HTTP reference. In fact the name of the book may even be a bit misleading. While it does an excellent job of describing the "what", "why", and "how" of HTTP, it goes a great deal further by describing how the various technologies that interact with HTTP work. And since HTTP is the very foundation of the Web, this book ends up being a great guide to the guts of all of WWW.
If you ever had a question about how a certain piece of Internet technology works, there is a good chance you will find it described in this book. From various types of Internet gateways, servers, and proxies, to security, content publishing & distribution, and HTTP related performance issues.
The topics are dealt in an insightful, practical way - full of useful examples, and "tricks of the trade". The writing style is very engaging, and accessible even to non-technical readers. Authors' knowledge and passion for the subject matter shows through. I have had the good fortune of working with the authors, and I can't think of a more qualified bunch of people to write this book.
Size of the book appears a bit daunting first, but you don't need to read it cover to cover. Just pick your topic of interest, or keep the book as a reference. I have been closely involved with developing HTTP related high performance Internet servers/gateways/proxies for six years, and I haven't seen a better book on the topic.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only book of its kind! May 12, 2003
I had never thought of HTTP in such a broad scale before I read "HTTP::The Definitive Guide". Apparently, Web sites and Web browsers are not the only things that should come to mind when one thinks of HTTP. Flexibility of the protocol made it home for so many breakthroughs of the Internet. It's amazing that there were no comprehensive textbooks covering the topic until today.
Organizing such enormous data in a 500-line book is a challenge already. But authors managed to go even beyond. The result was a well organized, comprehensive and amazingly easy to follow book.
The book is organized into 6 large sections. Each section is split into Chapters. Wherever appropriate, authors use figures and diagrams to illustrate the point.
The first section, called "Web's Foundation" covers most of the things an average web developer may already have known. It starts off with a chapter on HTTP Overview, and covers such topics as URLs, HTTP Messages - requests and responses, connections - parallel, persistent and pipeline. Some of the highlights are HTTP versions and their differences, URL conversion algorithms and status codes.
The second section, called "HTTP Architecture", is probably the most informative section with lots of gory details. It discusses existing technologies that make things happen - players of the Web. Starts with Web Servers that actually serve the original content. Takes you step by step what exactly happens once the Server accepts the request from your browser and displays you the page. Other technologies, such as Proxies, Caching, Gateways, Tunnels and Relays are very well covered. They even talk about Web Robots (a.k.a. Crawlers) and allocate over 30 exciting pages on these both annoying and incredibly useful "creatures".
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
You think you may know enough HTTP, it's just a simple application level protocol eh? Hold your thought till you read this book. I borrowed this book from a library merely for doing some research on HTTP connection management and secure authentication. However, the more I read, the more I'm amazed there're lots of practical and interesting topics with so rich but not boring details. The book uses quite numbers of pictures to depict different handshaking protocols and complicated concepts, very easy to follow and understand. It is certainly not the HTTP specification reprint. It tells you what, why, where, and how. It is as the name suggested --- The Definitive Guide.
This book gives you very resourceful details on how HTTP works with a wild range of topics like Caching, Proxies, Gateway, Tunneling, Web Robots, Connection Management, Cookies, Various Authentication, Security, i18n, Hosting, and even Load Balancing! For example, it addresses how web crawlers work, really the inside out information, how a web crawler can back track their visited paths and what other alternatives to prevent & resolve loops & dups.

HTTP is becoming the 'operating system' for distributed applications in Internet. No doubt in my mind, from beginners, advanced users, even to researchers, will surely be benefitted from this excellent book. The authors really did a superb job. Five Stars!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As relevant in 2009 as when it was written May 12, 2009
By Brian
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Some of the existing reviews of this book go into excellent detail on how good this book is. I would like to add that while many technical books do not age well, the HTTP spec has not really changed in the past decade and the reason that this is still 'the definitive guide' is because this is so detailed there is no reason to replace it.
Still worth a read in 2009, and I suspect whenever you consider purchasing it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written but technical guide of web technology February 1, 2003
This is a really nice, technical reference of HTTP; the technology that makes the web work. I am a software engineer interested in web services, and this book has rescued me from a pile of confusing technical specifications. I've been waiting for a book like this, and it's no surprise O'Reilly came out with it. The book is technically deep, but it's well written and thoughtfully organized. It's not "HTTP" for dummies (it has 700 pages of meat), but the friendly writing made it easy even for my colleagues who knew nothing about HTTP. There are also hundreds of great illustrations that make technical interactions clear.
The book seems useful for anyone that wants to understand how the internet works; but it's deep enough for professional developers and academic types. The authors clearly have clearly spent a lot of work on the book, to make it thorough and readable. The book is very good, but I wish it had more detail about web services and maybe wireless web communications. Those might be slightly off-topic, but I think they'd go great in this book.
I agree with most of the other reviews of this book (but the Anton Skederis review below seems to be reviewing the "HTTP pocket reference" which is an entirely different book). All said, if you are a technical or marketing professional involved with internet technology, or a computer science student, this book may be a good addition to your library. I'd give it a 4.7 out of 5. - T.E.B.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant in 2013
A great explanation of HTTP, even now in 2013. I bought the book to help me understand Proxy Servers and how they work at the lower levels. Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Really good book to understand how the web works, this one was recommended to me and I don't regret. a
Published 8 months ago by CM
5.0 out of 5 stars This book helped me tremendously.
This book cleared up a lot of the misconceptions I had about http. I now feel I could write http api calls with the best of them.
Published 10 months ago by L. Byrd
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive it is, covering everything you ever wanted to know about...
I could have done with a little less of the cheerful style and some of the lame attempts at humor, but I suspect that there is nothing worth knowing about HTTP that is not covered... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Alex F Stop
4.0 out of 5 stars Better understanding of http
Read it.

Feel like i have a good grasp of http now, incl proxy technologies, error codes, and mssg headers etc etc.
Published 14 months ago by James
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book to understand 2616
Spent a couple of weekends on this (skipped Chapter 19 about Publishing systems) and it reads like a charm. One has to keep in mind that the book was written in 2002. Read more
Published 18 months ago by R. Pokkyarath
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read book for every tech guy
Just download a sample and start reading - you will probably buy it in few minutes :D

it's big. but if it's on your Kindle that's not a problem, right? Read more
Published 22 months ago by Denis Wolf
2.0 out of 5 stars 10 Years on...
Previous experience: I've got a decent enough working knowledge of HTTP, I've had a good read of RFC2616, etc

I bought the book looking to fill gaps in knowledge. Read more
Published on April 4, 2012 by Wishy
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, detailed, a great reference
A thorough book on the inner workings of the HTTP protocol, covering everything from hardware to software and the simple text protocol itself to secure communications.
Published on March 12, 2012 by Philip Dow
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall good, but light on https / ssl
Overall this book really fits my reading style and I liked it. This book is for you if you like to-the-point books without repetition. Read more
Published on December 23, 2011 by Russell J. Schampers
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