How HTML5 works

HTML5 uses HTTP, which is a request/response protocol for communication between clients and servers. A client initiates a TCP connection and uses it to send HTTP requests to the server. The server responds to these requests by granting access rights for the available resources. After the client and server establish a connection, the messages exchanged between them contain only WebSocket headers, not HTTP headers.

The infrastructure of HTML5 consists of WebSockets, which further use the existing HTTP infrastructure to provide a lightweight mechanism for communication between a client and a web server. You typically implement the WebSocket protocol in a browser and web servers. However, you can use this protocol with any client or server application.

When a client attempts to make a connection using WebSockes, web servers treat the WebSocket handshake as an upgrade request, and the server switches to the WebSocket protocol. The WebSocket protocol enables frequent interaction between the browser and the web servers. Therefore, you can use this protocol for live updates, such as stock indexes and score cards, and even live games. This is possible because of a standardized way for the server to send unsolicited responses to the client while maintaining an open connection for two-way ongoing communication between the client browser and the server.


You can also achieve this effect, in non-standardized ways, by using various other technologies, such as Comet. For more information about Comet, see

The WebSocket protocol communicates over TCP ports 80 and 443. This facilitates communication in environments that use firewalls to block non-web Internet connections. Additionally, WebSocket has its own fragmentation mechanism. A WebSocket message can be sent as multiple WebSocket frames.


You cannot use WebSocket if the web applications on the servers do not support it.

How HTML5 establishes a webSocket session

A browser supporting HTML5 uses JavaScript APIs to perform the following tasks:

  • Open a WebSocket connection.

  • Communicate over the WebSocket connection.

  • Close the WebSocket connections.

To open a WebSocket connection, the browser sends an HTTP upgrade message to the server for switching to the WebSocket protocol. The server either accepts or rejects this request. Following are snippets of a sample client request and server response:

  • Sample client request

    pre codeblock GET /HTTP/1.1 Upgrade: websocket Sec-websocket-protocol: <List of protocols that the client supports over this websocket session, such as an application level protocol, for example ICA.> Sec-websocket-extensions: <List of extensions client wants applied to this session, such as compression.> Sec-Websocket-version: <Version of websocket protocol that the client intends to use.> <!--NeedCopy-->

  • Sample server response

    pre codeblock HTTP/1.1 101 Switching Protocols Upgrade: websocket Connection: Upgrade Sec-Websocket-Protocol: <One from the list of protocols in the client request.> Sec-Websocket-extensions: <List of extensions server accepts for session.> Sec-Websocket-version: <Version of websocket protocol that the server supports.> <!--NeedCopy-->

The following figure shows the sequence of messages exchanged between a client and a server:

localized image

During an HTML5 connection, the following messages are exchanged between the client and the server:

  • Client sends an HTTP request to upgrade WebSocket.
  • Server responds to the client request and switches to WebSocket protocol.
  • Server sends WebSocket frames to the client.
  • Client sends a request to close the WebSocket.
  • Server closes the WebSocket.
How HTML5 works