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Basic HTTP Server Implementation in C with Dynamic File Serving

The provided C code represents a fundamental implementation of an HTTP server, demonstrating key concepts in socket programming. It establishes a basic server capable of handling HTTP GET requests, serving static files from a 'www' directory. The code employs the polling mechanism for handling multiple connections concurrently. Essential functionalities, such as parsing HTTP headers, responding to requests with appropriate status codes, and determining MIME types based on file extensions, are implemented. While this code serves as a foundational example for educational purposes, it lacks advanced features and security measures expected in production-grade servers. Understanding this code aids in grasping the basics of HTTP communication and server-side operations.

Exploring the Core Elements of a Simple C-based HTTP Server Implementation

The provided C code offers a fundamental illustration of an HTTP server, showcasing essential concepts in socket programming. It establishes a simple server capable of handling HTTP GET requests, serving static files from a designated directory. This code serves as a valuable educational resource for those seeking to understand the basics of HTTP communication and server-side operations. Its concise structure covers key functionalities like parsing headers, responding with appropriate status codes, and determining MIME types based on file extensions. Students looking to enhance their comprehension of network programming in C will find this example helpful for dissecting the core components of a basic HTTP server, making it an excellent resource for those seeking assistance with their C assignments.

Block 1: Header Files and Constants

#include < stdio.h> #include < stdlib.h> #include < string.h> #include < ctype.h> #include < sys/socket.h> #include < unistd.h> #include < netinet/in.h> #include < sys/types.h> #include < netdb.h> #include < sys/ioctl.h> #include < poll.h> #include < errno.h> #include < fcntl.h> #include < sys/stat.h>


  • This block includes necessary header files for standard input/output, dynamic memory allocation, string manipulation, socket programming, file control, and other system-related operations.
  • It also defines various constants used throughout the program.

Block 2: HTTP Response Codes and Messages

#define RESPONSE_200 "200 OK" #define RESPONSE_400 "400 Bad Request" #define RESPONSE_404 "404 Not Found" #define SUCCESS_MSG "\n" ... #define NOTFOUND_MSG "\n" ... #define BADREQ_MSG "\n" ...


  • Defines HTTP response codes and corresponding HTML messages.
  • The HTML messages are simple responses to be sent in case of successful requests (200 OK), not found (404), or bad requests (400).

Block 3: MIME Types

#define HTML_TYPE "text/html" #define CSS_TYPE "text/css" #define JPG_TYPE "image/jpeg" // ... (other MIME types) #define UNK_TYPE "application/octet-stream"


  • Defines MIME types for various file extensions. This is crucial for setting the Content-Type header in HTTP responses.

Block 4: set_header Function

void set_header(char *buffer, char *status, char *type, size_t length) { sprintf(buffer, "HTTP/1.1 %s\r\n" \ "Content-Type: %s\r\n" \ "Content-Length: %lu\r\n\r\n", status, type, length); }


  • This function is responsible for setting the HTTP response header with the provided status, content type, and length.

Block 5: send_small_response Function

void send_small_response(int socket, char *status, char *response) { char buffer[BUFFER_LEN]; size_t msglen = strlen(response); set_header(buffer, status, HTML_TYPE, msglen); strcat(buffer, response); send(socket, buffer, strlen(buffer), 0); }


  • Combines the header and response message to send a small HTTP response to the client.

Block 6: MIME Type Determination

char *get_extension_mime(char *extension) { // ... (checks file extension and returns corresponding MIME type) }


  • Determines and returns the MIME type based on the file extension.

Block 7: File Extension Extraction

char *get_file_extension(char *path) { // ... (extracts file extension from a given path) }


  • Extracts and returns the file extension (including the dot) from a given file path.

Block 8: server_poll Function

void server_poll(struct pollfd *fds, int tcp_socket, int max_len) { // ... (handles event-driven server using poll) }


  • Implements the main event-driven server logic using the poll function.
  • Accepts incoming connections, processes HTTP requests, and sends appropriate responses.

Block 9: main Function

int main(int argc, char **argv) { // ... (parsing command-line arguments, setting up socket, and running the server) }


  • Parses command-line arguments to get the port.
  • Sets up the TCP socket, binds it, and listens for incoming connections.
  • Calls the server_poll function to handle events and manage the server.


In conclusion, the provided C code encapsulates a fundamental yet efficient implementation of an HTTP server. With its event-driven architecture using the poll function, the server adeptly manages multiple connections concurrently, showcasing the versatility of C programming. This compact server processes incoming TCP connections, interprets HTTP GET requests, and issues fitting responses, seamlessly navigating through MIME types and file extensions. The code serves as an insightful foundation for those delving into web server development in C, offering a pragmatic approach and a glimpse into the intricacies of handling HTTP communication. Its simplicity and functionality make it an educational resource for understanding the core mechanics of basic HTTP servers.