Difference between "Client Side" and "Server Side"

Understanding the difference between "Client Side" and "Server Side"

Understanding the difference between "Client Side" and "Server Side"

We get so many inane questions that revolve around this subject that I decided to try and be more helpful by providing a sort of "reference" document that will enable people who may be confused to read up a bit and save everybody some time. In fact, its more of a selfish move on our part, since now if I can get most of the information into this document, then the next time somebody asks another one of these questions, all we have to do is point them to this article.

First, the simple explanation:

Client side is what's happening on your computer in your browser. It has nothing to do with the server, or ASP or ASPX pages, or IIS, or the database, or ANYTHING ELSE. JavaScript in a web page would be an example of something client side. You don't need the server to help with the functionality of the script. If you can run it on your computer (without a server being installed) and it works, it's client side. In fact, when a web page is sitting in your browser after it has been processed by the server and sent "over the wire", there is absolutely no further connection with the server whatsoever at this point. NONE! ZERO! NADA, ZIP! The page in your browser has absolutely NO KNOWLEDGE of the server or what may be going on there, and conversely, the web server machine that served the page to your browser hasn't got the slightest idea of who you are or where you are, or whether you ever even visited the web site at all! The Web is Stateless, my son -- just like your mind on a Spring Saturday afternoon! May all your methods return, etc. etc.

Server side is when the server is being used to process something. Script or code that is run on the server does NOT appear on or in the web page that is sent to your browser -- the web page that your browser receives is only the RESULT of the script or database code or processing that happened on the server.

With these two beliefs firmly fixed in our minds like concrete sticking to the sides of the Grand Coulee Dam, let's take it down to the next level and get into a few more details. Client side code is usually (but not always) Javascript. Forget about writing to the user's hard drive, or saving a file somewhere, or writing to the user's Registry with client - side script. It ain't gonna happen. Browser vendors have tightened up security restrictions to the point where unless you are exploiting some security hole that hasn't been patched, you may as well forget about these types of things. Forget about downloading files and depositing them on the user's hard drive and having them run. No way, DUDE!

Now let's say you have a textbox in a web page and you want to use client side code to make something happen. For example, every time somebody types another letter in a text field, you want to go out and search your database and come back and fill a listbox with the closest matches. Can you do this with client side code?

Client side code triggering Server Side processing

Well, yes and no. Remember the page doesn't have any further connection with the server that sent it to the browser. However the client side code CAN cause, for example, a form on the page to activate its submit method, and if the ACTION atttribute of the form points to a page that will receive the form posts and generate the return data, it can be done. However too many people continue to make the fallacious assumption that some client - side event, such as selecting a listbox item, or the onblur event of leaving the focus from one control is going to enable them to get server - side code or events to run. What it MAY do is create a post or "postback" event. This really means we have made a NEW TRIP to the webserver with some specific information that the SERVER SIDE code is prepared to react to, and it will regenerate the page and send it back to the browser. With Smartnavigation and other features, it may appear the page has not really been reloaded, but 99% of the time, it has.

The only exception to the above is when we use COM components from the CLIENT, such as XMLHTTP, to issue their own GET or POST action to a receiving web page on the SERVER, which sends back new information. The component receives this without a page reload, and using DHTML, we can update client-side DOM items in the page. Another technique is to use hidden IFRAMES to perform similar actions "behind the scenes" and receive data. However, the data must be requested from the same domain the page was requested from, or security restrictions will prevent our access to the data in the IFRAME. Newer implementations of "Remote Scripting", which was invented by Microsoft about 1998 are using the term "AJAX". This is just a buzzword for remote scripting or "Script Callbacks" which are now built into ASP.NET 2.0.

So! The next time you want to ask a question about an event or how to "do something in a web page" the very first thing you should be thinking about is whether this is a client side or a server side event we are dealing with. Happy Coding!


Submission Date:  9/23/2005 3:20:44 PM
Submitted By:  Peter Bromberg
My Home Page:  http://www.eggheadcafe.com

By Peter Bromberg   Popularity  (2242 Views)