Introduction to Single page application

A single-page application (SPA) is a web application or web site that interacts with the user by dynamically rewriting the current page rather than loading entire new pages from a server. This approach avoids interruption of the user experience between successive pages, making the application behave more like a desktop application. In a SPA, either all necessary code – HTML, JavaScript, and CSS – is retrieved with a single page load, or the appropriate resources are dynamically loaded and added to the page as necessary, usually in response to user actions. The page does not reload at any point in the process, nor does control transfer to another page, although the location hash or the HTML5 History API can be used to provide the perception and navigability of separate logical pages in the application. Interaction with the single page application often involves dynamic communication with the web server behind the scenes.

Server architecture:

Thin server architecture:

An SPA moves logic from the server to the client, with the role of the web server evolving into a pure data API or web service. This architectural shift has, in some circles, been coined “Thin Server Architecture” to highlight that complexity has been moved from the server to the client, with the argument that this ultimately reduces overall complexity of the system.

Thick stateful server architecture:

The server keeps the necessary state in memory of the client state of the page. In this way, when any request hits the server (usually user actions), the server sends the appropriate HTML and/or JavaScript with the concrete changes to bring the client to the new desired state (usually adding/deleting/updating a part of the client DOM). At the same time, the state in server is updated. Most of the logic is executed on the server, and HTML is usually also rendered on the server. In some ways, the server simulates a web browser, receiving events and performing delta changes in server state which are automatically propagated to client.

This approach needs more server memory and server processing, but the advantage is a simplified development model because a) the application is usually fully coded in the server, and b) data and UI state in the server are shared in the same memory space with no need for custom client/server communication bridges.

Thick stateless server architecture:

This is a variant of the stateful server approach. The client page sends data representing its current state to the server, usually through Ajax requests. Using this data, the server is able to reconstruct the client state of the part of the page which needs to be modified and can generate the necessary data or code (for instance, as JSON or JavaScript), which is returned to the client to bring it to a new state, usually modifying the page DOM tree according to the client action which motivated the request.

This approach requires that more data be sent to the server and may require more computational resources per request to partially or fully reconstruct the client page state in the server. At the same time, this approach is more easily scalable because there is no per-client page data kept in the server and, therefore, Ajax requests can be dispatched to different server nodes with no need for session data sharing or server affinity.

Some SPAs may be executed from a local file using the file URI scheme. This gives users the ability to download the SPA from a server and run the file from a local storage device, without depending on server connectivity. If such an SPA wants to store and update data, it must use browser-based Web Storage. These applications benefit from advances available with HTML5.

Because the SPA is an evolution away from the stateless page-redraw model that browsers were originally designed for, some new challenges have emerged. Each of these problems has an effective solution with:

Client-side JavaScript libraries addressing various issues.

Server-side web frameworks that specialize in the SPA model.

The evolution of browsers and the HTML5 specification designed for the SPA model.

The above is a brief about Single page application. Watch this space for more updates on the latest trends in Technology.

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