Html5 Tutorial - Future Technology

Monday, 30 September 2013

HTML5 Tutorial - Client-Side Storage

Introduction This is an overview of client-side storage, a general term for several separate but related APIs: Web Storage, Web SQL Database, Indexed Database, and File Access. Each of these techniques provides a distinct way to store data on the user's hard drive, instead of the server, where data usually resides. There are two main reasons to do this: (a) to make the web app available offline; (b) to improve performance. For a detailed explanation of the use cases for client-side storage, see the HTML5Rocks article, "Offline": What does it mean and why should I care?. The APIs share a similar scope and similar principles. So let's first understand what they have in common before launching to the specifics of each. Common Features Storage on the Client Device In practice, "client-side storage" means data is passed to the browser's storage API, which saves it on the local device in the same area as it stores other user-specific information, e.g. preferences and cache. Beyond saving data, the APIs let you retrieve data, and in some cases, perform searches and batch manipulations. Sandboxed All four storage APIs tie data to a single "origin". e.g. if saves some data, then the browser will only permit to access that data in the future. When it comes to "origins", the domain must be exactly the same, so and are both disqualified. The port must match too, so also cannot see (which defaults to port 80), and so must the protocol (http versus https, etc.). Quotas You can imagine the chaos if any website was allowed to populate unsuspecting hard drives with gigabytes of data! Thus, browsers impose limits on storage capacity. When your app attempts to exceed that limit, the browser will typically show a dialog to let the user confirm the increase. You might expect the browser to enforce a single limit for all storage an origin can use, but the major browsers are actually enforcing limits separately for each storage mechanism. This may change in the future, but for now, you should think of the browser as maintaining a 2-D matrix, with "origin" in one dimension and "storage" in the other. For example, "" is allowed to store up to 5MB of Web Storage, 25MB of Web SQL Database Storage, and forbidden to use Indexed Database. Another welcome enhancement in this area would be user interfaces to let users view and control how much space they have allocated for each origin. There are also environments where the user can see upfront how much storage will be used, e.g. in the case of the Chrome Web Store, when a user installs an app, they will be prompted upfront to accept its permissions, which include storage limits. One possible value is "unlimited_storage". Transactions The two "database" storage formats support transactions. The aim is the same reason regular relational databases use transactions: To ensure the integrity of the database. Transactions prevent "race conditions", a phenomenon where two sequences of operations are applied to the database at the same time, leading to results that are both unpredictable and a database whose state is of dubious accuracy. Synchronous and Asynchronous Modes Most of the storage formats all support synchronous and asynchronous modes. Synchronous mode is blocking, meaning that the storage operation will be executed to completion before the next line of Javascript is executed. Asynchronous mode will cause the next line of Javascript to be executed immediately, with a new thread implicitly created to perform the storage operation. The application will be notified when the operation is finished by way of a callback function being called, a function which must be specified when the call is made. Synchronous mode is okay for low-impact situations, e.g. maintaining a set of preferences; it's a much simpler programming model, and such operations only take a few milliseconds. But in many production situations, data crunching will block the main thread, which includes the user interface. The display won't update during that time, and the user won't know if their mouse and keyboard actions have been received. So with larger data and complex operations, you should really choose asynchronous mode to keep your app running smoothly. Or alternatively, you can run synchronous operations in a spearate thread using Web Workers. Indeed, aside from Web Storage, you're forced to do it this way; all the other APIs only make their synchronous versions available from inside a Web Worker.

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