Wednesday, April 04, 2012

5 Cool Things you can do with HTML5 (p2)

As promised in the previous post in this series, this one will be about Web Storage.
Before the HTML5 era, you could store information on the client (browser) using a cookie. But that has two disadvantages (or limitations). First of all, a cookie's size is limited to 4096 bytes (but that differs over the different browsers and versions) and secondly - even more important - is that a cookie is always sent with every HTTP request, resulting in more data being sent over the wire. And that reduces scalability and decreases performance.
Using HTML5 you can use another type of storage, or even two types: sessionStorage and localStorage. In most browsers the storage is limited to 2.5Mb, but some go up to 5Mb or even unlimited. See this page for all limits per browser. And it is important to know that sessionStorage lives as long as your browser/tab is open - and is deleted on close, while localStorage stays on the client - even after a shutdown of the machine. 
In a storage only key-value pairs are stored - so it's a sort of NOSQL ;-) . You can add or replace a value in your store using localStorage.setItem("test", "12345"); or shorter : localStorage.test="12345"; You can even leave the quotes out, while all values are stored as text anyway.
And similar, you can retrieve a value using localStorage.getItem("test"); or localStorage.test;
One more thing: you can only access contents of the storage in a page when the storage is created from the same domain - so no cross domain sharing of data!
You see the contents of the storage from a domain, by opening up the Javascript console and issue the localStorage command and inspect the contents of the object. Or, in Chrome, open up the Developer Tools (Ctrl-Shift-I) and check the Resources tab. The users of the APEX Developer Addon will see that this (nice!) tool uses the localStorage feature as well...

You see the full W3C defintion on Web Storage here.

How could this be useful in an APEX environment?
When you want to welcome a user back, with a message like "Nice to see you back, we haven't seen you since <some date/time>", you can store that last date in the database. But then a user needs a login, otherwise you wouldn't recognize him. If you store that information in the localStorage, you can use that to say hello again - assuming he didn't remove the localStorage and he uses the same browser ;-)
A more sophisticated use could be, when you think of a webshop. A lot of people do "window shopping" on the net: filling up their virtual baskets with stuff...but never proceed to the counter. If you issue some kind of submit or AJAX call, every time a user adds something to his basket, you get a lot of network traffic and database processing for...what? For nothing actually. So when you keep this shopping on the client side, and submit the contents of the localStorage.basket to the database if  and only if the user presses the [proceed to checkout] button, you maximize the use of your resources. Positive impact on scalability and performance! 

Next post will be about ... GeoLocation!

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