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HyperText Transfer Protocol: A Short Course


John Yannakopoulos

Department of Computer Science
University of Crete
Heraklion, Crete, Greece

August 2003

The innovations that Berners-Lee added to the Internet to create the World Wide Web had two fundamental dimensions: connectivity and interface. He invented a new protocol for the computers to speak as they exchanged hypermedia documents. This Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) made it very easy for any computer on the Internet to safely offer up its collection of documents into the greater whole; using HTTP, a computer that asked for a file from another computer would know, when it received the file, if it was a picture, a movie, or a spoken word. With this feature of HTTP, the Internet began to reflect an important truth - retrieving a file's data is almost useless unless you know what kind of data it is. In a sea of Web documents, it's impossible to know in advance what a document is - it could be almost anything - but the Web understands "data types" and passes that information along.

- Mark Pesce, "VRML - Browsing and Building Cyberspace", New Riders Publishing, 1995.

Motivation/Target audience: This document is Copyright © 2003 by John Yannakopoulos <giannak@csd.uoc.gr>, and it's expected to be used as an introductory tutorial to the HyperText Transfer Protocol by the students enrolled in the course "Distributed Systems (CS-556)" at the Computer Science department of the University of Crete, as well as by anyone who wishes to have a first (but not last...) course on the subject. A basic knowledge of the protocols underlying HTTP (i.e. TCP, IP, DNS etc.), as well as an adequate experience in TCP/IP network programming are required by the reader in order to understand most of the concepts with regard to the HTTP discussed in this text. This paper may be freely distributed in any medium as long as the text (including this notice) is kept intact and the content is not modified, edited, added to or otherwise changed.

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Copyright © 2003, John Yannakopoulos <giannak@csd.uoc.gr>