What is HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol)?

Meaning & Definition

HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol)

HTTP, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is an application-layer protocol used for transmitting and receiving data over the World Wide Web. It is the foundation of data communication on the internet and serves as the protocol for transferring and displaying web pages, as well as other resources like images, videos, and files. HTTP operates on the client-server model, where web browsers (clients) request and receive web content from web servers.

Key features and aspects of HTTP include:

  • Request-Response Model

In HTTP, communication between a client (usually a web browser) and a server (hosting web content) is based on a request-response model. The client sends an HTTP request to the server, specifying the desired resource (e.g., a web page), and the server responds with the requested data.

  • Stateless Protocol

HTTP is a stateless protocol, meaning that each request-response cycle is independent and doesn’t inherently retain information about previous interactions. This design simplifies the protocol but may require additional mechanisms (e.g., cookies) to maintain the session state.

  • Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)

URLs are used in HTTP to specify the location of resources on the web. A URL typically includes the protocol (e.g., “http://” or “https://”), the domain name of the server, and the path to the specific resource.

  • Methods

HTTP requests use various methods, or HTTP verbs, to specify the type of operation being performed. Common methods include GET (retrieve data), POST (submit data to be processed), PUT (update an existing resource), and DELETE (remove a resource).

  • Status Codes

HTTP responses include status codes to indicate the outcome of the request. For example, “200 OK” signifies a successful request, while “404 Not Found” indicates that the requested resource was not found.

  • Headers

HTTP messages, both in requests and responses, can contain headers that provide additional information about the data being sent or received. Headers can include information about content type, caching, authentication, and more.

  • HTTP and HTTPS

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is a secure version of HTTP that encrypts data exchanged between the client and server. It provides confidentiality and data integrity, making it more secure for sensitive transactions and data transfer.

  • Cookies

HTTP cookies are small pieces of data stored on the client’s side (usually in the browser) to maintain session information, track user behavior, and enable various web functionalities, such as remembering login sessions.

HTTP is an integral part of the internet, enabling the retrieval and display of web content as we know it. Web browsers use HTTP to request web pages from servers, and servers respond with the HTML, images, CSS, and other resources that make up the web page. It is important for web developers, system administrators, and anyone involved in web-related activities to have a good understanding of HTTP and its associated concepts.

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