Monday, November 25, 2013

It seems some web architects aim to have a stateless web application. Does that mean basically not storing user sessions? Or is there more to it?
If it is just the user session storing, what is the benefit of not doing that?
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"user session storing" can be a pain to scale out once you have many web servers. –  uncle brad Apr 4 '11 at 14:23
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2 Answers

up vote15down voteaccepted
  1. Reduces memory usage. Image if google stored session information about every one of their users
  2. Easier to support server farms. If you need session data and you have more than 1 server, you need a way to sync that session data across servers. Normally this is done using a database.
  3. Reduce session expiration problems. Sometimes expiring sessions cause issues that are hard to find and test for. Sessionless applications don't suffer from these.
  4. Url linkability. Some sites store the ID of what the user is looking at in the sessions. This makes it impossible for users to simply copy and paste the URL or send it to friends.
NOTE: session data is really cached data. This is what it should be used for. If you have an expensive query which is going to be reused, then save it into session. Just remember that you cannot assume it will be there when you try and get it later. Always check if it exists before retrieving.
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1 
One more question: if an application is indeed stateless - is it then impossible to monitor if users are logged in and do authentication? –  Genadinik Apr 4 '11 at 17:17
 
@Genadinik, No, you can log user's last access to the site which is all a Session based site can do to. It's not like session run sites maintain some connection with the user's browser. –  tster Apr 4 '11 at 17:57
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From a developer's perspective, statelessness can help make an application more maintainable and easier to work with. If I know a website I'm working on is stateless, I need not worry about things being correctly initialized in the session before loading a particular page.
From a user's perspective, statelessness allows resources to be linkable. If a page is stateless, then when I link a friend to that page, I know that they'll see what I'm seeing.
From the scaling and performance perspective, see tsters answer.
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+1 for the linkable thing. That's actually one of my top reasons for not using session data. I'll add it to my answer. –  tster Apr 4 '11 at 14:30
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