HTTP Streaming is a push-style data transfer technique that allows a web server to continuously send data to a client over a single HTTP connection that remains open indefinitely.
Technically, this goes against HTTP convention, but HTTP Streaming is an efficient method to transfer all kinds of dynamic or otherwise streamable data between the server and client without reinventing HTTP.
Apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube utilize TCP to minimize buffer time and take advantage of its features, as TCP transfers can be seamlessly integrated with HTTP and web browsers, without requiring additional plugins or software, making the delay insignificant.
TCP maintains information about the received and unreceived data, while HTTP provides precise guidelines on how to interpret and handle the data once it's received. TCP governs the flow of data, whereas HTTP defines the contents of the data being transmitted.
Streaming APIs are designed to maintain state, while REST APIs are stateless, implying that they do not preserve any client context except for the initial request. Streaming APIs require some form of state storage to accurately associate data with the user who requested it. On the other hand, REST APIs can be cached.
With HTTP Streaming, the server is configured to hold on to a specific request from a client and keep the response open so that it can push data through it. When updates pertaining to the request are available server-side, the server sends a response through the request-response channel, and only closes the connection when explicitly told to do so. In such a manner, a client can listen for updates from the server and receive them instantly with none of the overhead associated with HTTP headers and the opening/closing of connections. It also eliminates the need for long polling.
To achieve an indefinite response, the server must respond to client requests by specifying Transfer Encoding: chunked in the header. This sets up a persistent connection from server to client and allows the server to send response data in chunks of newline-delimited strings. These chunks of data can then be received and processed on-the-fly by the client. Alternatively, the data may be streamed via the Server-Sent Events (SSE) method, for which there is a standardized HTML5 API called EventSource. With SSE, data is encoded as text/event-stream in the header.
In short, if you’re trying to stream data to your platform via HTTP, below are the steps you need to take.
Create and configure an HTTP stream. The HTTP data stream will take the data and forward it to your platform.
Subscribe the stream to the proper source.
Deploy script on your server.
Configure the script.
Get the data.
Although there are several benefits to HTTP streaming, there are a few things to take into consideration. You'll want to keep an eye out for latency and internet speed. These two factors play a crucial role in delivering a great user experience.
As a way to ensure your users are getting the most reliable experience without delays and lags, you'll want to partner with a provider who can reach any number of users and devices simultaneously.