Tuesday, September 3, 1996
Scotts Valley, CA
Fat URL - the Secretary of State for the Internet
Summer vacation is over, school is back in session and the Sip from the Firehose is back! I took part of the summer off, attended the Borland Developer Conference, went to the beach and surfed the web. I apologize for the summer hiatus in writing my column.
Have you been noticing what is happening to those simple, easy to recognize, and short URLs that used to appear in location edit box of your favorite web browser? What is going on with URLs these days? They've put on weight. Why?
As developers and users of software, databases and transactions we have been used to the idea that a live connection is made between software and data, between user and application. The state of the application was kept on the client side in the application, the database engine middleware and on the server.
Using the Internet and a web browser we were used to getting a document, reading it, hyperlinking to another document, or retrieving some other information. There was very seldom a need to remember work that was done before or what was currently opened. With the advent of search engines and client/server database applications came the requirement to remember the state of the connection to help decide what work the server needed to do next (retrieve the next 10 search entries, go to the next customer record).
In order to keep track of the state of the connection something was needed on both the client and the server side. A few of several possible solutions for state based Internet connections include:
- Fat URLs - keep the state information as parameters in the URL
- Hidden Fields - keep state information in hidden fields on form based documents
- HTTP Cookies - store state infomation in a special file on the client computer
A simple solution to preserving state is to store the state information as parameters in the URL. This is the solution that most Internet search engines use. Take a look at the parameters added to the URL when using Alta-Vista:
When working with client/server Internet or Intranet applications it is especially important to remember the state of database application connection. I visited the NeXT Computer WebObjects test drive area. One of their sample applications is the New Dodge Virtual Showroom. When I selected my car search criteria I got back a generated HTML document with the following URL: