HTTP: The Definitive Guide

Early this week the book HTTP: The Definitive Guide has finally arrived. I’ve put on hold all my side projects and gave it a read, and have written this post to share my opinion about it.

This book has been in my wish-list for quite some time, and I have to say that I do not regret for any moment buying it.

As expected the book covers every single bit about the HTTP protocol, but does not limit itself on it. The book goes over topics as caching, robots (crawlers), load balancing, HTTP authentication, SSL. web servers, internationalization, encoding and more.

The book is cleanly written, it starts with an overview of the HTTP protocol, chapter in which are described the most common things people know about the HTTP protocol, and which finally has clarified my enigma on URL/URI.

The book goes on about different versions of the HTTP protocol and the way they evolved to their current state. It is also mentioned the HTTP-NG protocol, the one that should have replaced HTTP 1.1 protocol, alongside the reasons for which it was discontinued.

The content is well salted with representative images describing the detailed content, with clear, concise diagrams of the request workflow.

Interestingly the book also goes on describing the HTTP transport layer, the well known TCP protocol. Well known, would be much said considering the amount of information it provides about it, from the underlying IP protocol to its restrictions and speed optimization tricks.

And all that is only a tiny fraction of what the book has to offer to the reader. And lets not forget the helpful Appendixes for: URI schemes, HTTP status codes, HTTP headers, MIME types, Bas64 encoding, Digest authentication, language tags and MIME charset registry.

This book is definitely one that any system administrator and web developer should give a read (keep around for reference).

Some code (C and Perl) is spiced through the book, but does not contain anything language specific so it can be easily converted to one of the languages you use.

But as with any other book, not everything is perfect – at least from my point of view – because the book has a subchapter dedicated to Frontpage extension and WebDAV, which we can admit are not the best technologies, but common when the book was written.

HTTP: The Definitive Guide is the bible of the HTTP protocol, and with that I rest my case. 615 pages are not something you mess with.

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