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Apache 1.3 API notes

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This document has not been updated to take into account changes made in the 2.0 version of the Apache HTTP Server. Some of the information may still be relevant, but please use it with care.

These are some notes on the Apache API and the data structures you have to deal with, etc. They are not yet nearly complete, but hopefully, they will help you get your bearings. Keep in mind that the API is still subject to change as we gain experience with it. (See the TODO file for what might be coming). However, it will be easy to adapt modules to any changes that are made. (We have more modules to adapt than you do).

A few notes on general pedagogical style here. In the interest of conciseness, all structure declarations here are incomplete -- the real ones have more slots that I'm not telling you about. For the most part, these are reserved to one component of the server core or another, and should be altered by modules with caution. However, in some cases, they really are things I just haven't gotten around to yet. Welcome to the bleeding edge.

Finally, here's an outline, to give you some bare idea of what's coming up, and in what order:


Basic concepts

We begin with an overview of the basic concepts behind the API, and how they are manifested in the code.

Handlers, Modules, and Requests

Apache breaks down request handling into a series of steps, more or less the same way the Netscape server API does (although this API has a few more stages than NetSite does, as hooks for stuff I thought might be useful in the future). These are:

These phases are handled by looking at each of a succession of modules, looking to see if each of them has a handler for the phase, and attempting invoking it if so. The handler can typically do one of three things:

Most phases are terminated by the first module that handles them; however, for logging, `fixups', and non-access authentication checking, all handlers always run (barring an error). Also, the response phase is unique in that modules may declare multiple handlers for it, via a dispatch table keyed on the MIME type of the requested object. Modules may declare a response-phase handler which can handle any request, by giving it the key */* (i.e., a wildcard MIME type specification). However, wildcard handlers are only invoked if the server has already tried and failed to find a more specific response handler for the MIME type of the requested object (either none existed, or they all declined).

The handlers themselves are functions of one argument (a request_rec structure. vide infra), which returns an integer, as above.

A brief tour of a module

At this point, we need to explain the structure of a module. Our candidate will be one of the messier ones, the CGI module -- this handles both CGI scripts and the ScriptAlias config file command. It's actually a great deal more complicated than most modules, but if we're going to have only one example, it might as well be the one with its fingers in every place.

Let's begin with handlers. In order to handle the CGI scripts, the module declares