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The JSP Files (part 6): State Of Grace
Learn how to "maintain state" on a JSP-based Web site with the Cookie and Session objects.

| Wasted, Dude! |

It's one of the things geeks say to each other when they want to impress the young women in earshot: "HTTP is a stateless protocol, and the Internet is a stateless development environment". In simple language, all this means is that the HyperText Transfer Protocol, which is the backbone of the Web, is unable to retain a memory of the identity of each client that connects to a Web site, and therefore treats each request for a Web page as a unique and independent connection, with no relationship whatsoever to the connections that preceded it - very similar to the behaviour of some of today's more adventurous teenagers, who get drunk every night, wake up the next morning with no memory at all of what happened, and go out again in the evening to do the same thing all over again...

Now, so long as you're aimlessly surfing from one site to another, this works without a problem. But what if you've decided to buy a few discs from CDNow.com? In a "stateless environment", it would be very difficult to keep track of all the items you've shortlisted for purchase, as the stateless nature of the HTTP protocol would make it impossible to keep track of the items selected.

Consequently, what is required is a method that makes it possible to "maintain state", something that allows client connections to be tracked and connection-specific data to be maintained. And thus came about "cookies", which allowed Web sites to store client-specific information in a file on the client system, and access the information in the file whenever required. So, in the shopping cart example above, the items selected would be added to the cookie, and would be retrieved and presented to the customer in a consolidated list during the billing process.

Why are they called "cookies"? The PR agency handling the account was obviously asleep at the wheel.


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