HTML5 - Server Sent Events


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Conventional web applications generate events which are dispatched to the web server. For example, a simple click on a link requests a new page from the server.

The type of events which are flowing from web browser to the web server may be called client-sent events.

Along with HTML5, WHATWG Web Applications 1.0 introduces events which flow from web server to the web browsers and they are called Server-Sent Events (SSE). Using SSE you can push DOM events continuously from your web server to the visitor's browser.

The event streaming approach opens a persistent connection to the server, sending data to the client when new information is available, eliminating the need for continuous polling.

Server-sent events standardize how we stream data from the server to the client.

Web Application for SSE

To use Server-Sent Events in a web application, you would need to add an <eventsource> element to the document.

The src attribute of <eventsource> element should point to an URL which should provide a persistent HTTP connection that sends a data stream containing the events.

The URL would point to a PHP, PERL or any Python script which would take care of sending event data consistently. Following is a simple example of web application which would expect server time.

<!DOCTYPE HTML>

<html>
   <head>
   
      <script type = "text/javascript">
         /* Define event handling logic here */
      </script>
   </head>
   
   <body>
      <div id = "sse">
         <eventsource src = "/cgi-bin/ticker.cgi" />
      </div>
		
      <div id = "ticker">
         <TIME>
      </div>
   </body>
</html>

Server Side Script for SSE

A server side script should send Content-type header specifying the type text/event-stream as follows.

print "Content-Type: text/event-stream\n\n";

After setting Content-Type, server side script would send an Event: tag followed by event name. Following example would send Server-Time as event name terminated by a new line character.

print "Event: server-time\n";

Final step is to send event data using Data: tag which would be followed by integer of string value terminated by a new line character as follows −

$time = localtime();
print "Data: $time\n";

Finally, following is complete ticker.cgi written in Perl −

#!/usr/bin/perl  
print "Content-Type: text/event-stream\n\n";  

while(true) { 
   print "Event: server-time\n"; 
   $time = localtime(); 
   print "Data: $time\n"; 
   sleep(5); 
} 

Handle Server-Sent Events

Let us modify our web application to handle server-sent events. Following is the final example.

<!DOCTYPE HTML> 

<html>  
   <head> 
  
      <script type = "text/javascript"> 
         document.getElementsByTagName("eventsource")[0].addEventListener("server-time", 
         eventHandler, false); 
    
         function eventHandler(event) { 

            // Alert time sent by the server 
            document.querySelector('#ticker').innerHTML = event.data; 
         } 
      </script> 
   </head> 
  
   <body> 
      <div id = "sse"> 
         <eventsource src = "/cgi-bin/ticker.cgi" /> 
      </div> 
   
      <div id = "ticker" name = "ticker"> 
         [TIME] 
      </div> 
   </body> 
</html>

Before testing Server-Sent events, I would suggest that you make sure your web browser supports this concept.



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