On this page:
3.1 Example
3.2 Usage Considerations
3.3 Serializable Continuations
3.4 Native Interfaces
3.5 Stateless Web Interaction
send/  suspend/  url
send/  suspend
send/  suspend/  hidden
send/  suspend/  url/  dispatch
send/  suspend/  dispatch
redirect/  get
3.6 Stateless Web Cells
3.7 File Boxes
3.8 Stateless Web Parameters
3.9 Soft State
3.10 Stuffers
3.10.1 Basic Combinators
stuffer/  c
3.10.2 Serialization
3.10.3 Base64 Encoding
3.10.4 GZip Compression
3.10.5 Key/  Value Storage
3.10.6 Hash-addressed Storage
hash-fun/  c
3.10.7 HMAC-SHA1 Signing
3.10.8 Helpers

3 Stateless Servlets🔗

 #lang web-server/base package: web-server-lib
 #lang web-server

A stateless servlet should provide the following exports:


interface-version : (one-of/c 'stateless)

This indicates that the servlet is a stateless servlet.

This is the stuffer that will be used for the servlet.

If it is not provided, it defaults to default-stuffer.


manager : manager?

This is the manager that will be used for the servlet.

If it is not provided, it defaults to (create-none-manager #f).


(start initial-request)  response?

  initial-request : request?
This function is called when an instance of this servlet is started. The argument is the HTTP request that initiated the instance.

An example 'stateless servlet module:
#lang web-server
(require web-server/http)
(provide interface-version stuffer start)
(define interface-version 'stateless)
(define stuffer
   (md5-stuffer (build-path (find-system-path 'home-dir) ".urls"))))
(define (start req)
   `(html (body (h2 "Look ma, no state!")))))

The web-server/base language exports all of the functions and syntax from racket/base and nothing else.

The web-server language exports all of the functions and syntax from the following libraries: racket, net/url, web-server/http, web-server/http/bindings, web-server/lang/abort-resume, web-server/lang/web, web-server/lang/native, web-server/lang/web-param, web-server/lang/web-cells, web-server/lang/file-box, web-server/lang/soft, web-server/dispatch, and web-server/stuffers. Some of these are documented in the subsections that follow.

3.2 Usage Considerations🔗

A stateless servlet has the following process performed on it automatically:
  • All uses of letrec are removed and replaced with equivalent uses of let and imperative features.

  • The program is converted into ANF (A-Normal Form), making all continuations explicit.

  • All continuations and continuations marks are recorded in the continuation marks of the expression they are the continuation of.

  • All calls to external modules are identified and marked.

  • All uses of call/cc are removed and replaced with equivalent gathering of the continuations through the continuation marks installed earlier.

  • The program is defunctionalized with a serializable data-structure for each lambda.

This process allows the continuations captured by your servlet to be serialized. This means they may be stored on the client’s browser or the server’s disk.

This means your servlet has no cost to the server other than execution. This is very attractive if you’ve used Racket servlets and had memory problems.

This means your server can restart in the middle of a long running Web interaction without the URLs that have been shared with the client expiring. This is very attractive if you’ve used Racket servlets and had session timeout problems.

This process is defined on all of Racket and occurs after macro-expansion, so you are free to use all interesting features of Racket. However, there are some considerations you must make.

First, this process drastically changes the structure of your program. It will create an immense number of lambdas and structures your program did not normally contain. The performance implication of this has not been studied with Racket.

Second, the defunctionalization process is sensitive to the syntactic structure of your program. Therefore, if you change your program in a trivial way, for example, changing a constant, then all serialized continuations will be obsolete and will error when deserialization is attempted. This is a feature, not an error! It is a small price to pay for protection from the sorts of errors that would occur if your program were changed in a meaningful way. If you use the default-stuffer or web-server/stuffers/hash, then whenever you change your servlet’s code, you can safely delete all saved continuations, because they won’t be used any longer.

Third, the values in the lexical scope of your continuations must be serializable for the continuations itself to be serializable. This means that you must use define-serializable-struct rather than define-struct, and take care to use modules that do the same. Similarly, you may not use parameterize, because parameterizations are not serializable.

Fourth, and related, this process only runs on your code, not on the code you require. Thus, your continuations—to be serializable—must not be in the context of another module. For example, the following will fail with an "unsafe context" exception:

(define requests
  (map (lambda (rg) (send/suspend/url rg))
because map is not transformed by the process. However, if you defined your own map function, there would be no problem. Another solution is to store the map part of the continuation on the server with serial->native and native->serial:
(define requests
   (map (lambda (rg) (native->serial (send/suspend/url rg)))

Fifth, the store is not serialized. If you rely on the store you will be taking huge risks. You will be assuming that the serialized continuation is invoked on the same server before the server is restarted or the memory is garbage collected.

This process is derived from the papers Continuations from Generalized Stack Inspection by Pettyjohn et al. in 2005, Automatically RESTful Web Applications, Or Marking Modular Serializable Continuations by Jay McCarthy in 2009, and The Two-State Solution: Native and Serializable Continuations Accord by Jay McCarthy in 2010, We thank Greg Pettyjohn for his initial implementation of this algorithm.

3.3 Serializable Continuations🔗

The main purpose of the stateless language is to provide serializable continuations to your servlet.


(call-with-serializable-current-continuation response-generator)

  response-generator : (continuation? . -> . any)
Captures the current continuation in a serializable way and calls response-generator with it, returning the result.

This potentially uses resources of the current servlet’s manager if serial->native and native->serial were used to capture an untransformable context.


(serial->native expr)

serial->native informs the serializing runtime that expr is potentially a call to an untransformed context. This sets up the necessary information for native->serial to signal to call-with-serializable-current-continuation to capture the native (and thus unserializable) section of the context and store it on the server.


(native->serial expr)

native->serial informs the serializing runtime that expr marks first expression after returning from an untransformed context. This captures the untransformed context such that call-with-serializable-current-continuation can store it on the server and reference it from serializable continuations.

For example,
will fail at runtime because build-list is not transformed. However,
  (lambda (i)
      (lambda (k) (serialize k)))))))
will succeed and k will reference a cell in the current servlet’s manager that stores the part of the continuation in build-list.

3.4 Native Interfaces🔗

It is sometimes inconvenient to use serial->native and native->serial throughout your program. This module provides a macro for creating wrappers.


(define-native (native arg-spec ...) original)

  arg-spec : ho
  arg-spec : _
Builds an interface around original named native such that calls to native are wrapped in serial->native and all arguments marked with ho in arg-spec are assumed to procedures and are wrapped in native->serial.

For example,

(define-native (build-list/native _ ho) build-list)

is equivalent to
(define (build-list/native fst snd)
    (lambda args
       (apply snd args))))))

3.5 Stateless Web Interaction🔗


(send/suspend/url response-generator)  request?

  response-generator : (url? . -> . response?)
Captures the current continuation. Serializes it and stuffs it into a URL. Calls response-generator with this URL and delivers the response to the client. If the URL is invoked the request is returned to this continuation.


(send/suspend response-generator)  request?

  response-generator : (string? . -> . response?)
Like send/suspend/url but with a string URL representation.


(send/suspend/hidden response-generator)  request?

  response-generator : (url? xexpr/c . -> . response?)
Captures the current continuation. Serializes it and stuffs it into a hidden INPUT form element. Calls response-generator with this URL and form field and delivers the response to the client. If the URL is invoked with form data containing the hidden form, the request is returned to this continuation.


(send/suspend/url/dispatch make-response)  any

  make-response : (((request? . -> . any) . -> . url?) . -> . response?)
Calls make-response with a function that, when called with a procedure from request? to any/c will generate a URL, that when invoked will call the function with the request? object and return the result to the caller of send/suspend/dispatch.


(send/suspend/dispatch make-response)  any

  make-response : (((request? . -> . any) . -> . string?) . -> . response?)
Like send/suspend/url/dispatch but with a string URL representation.


(redirect/get [#:headers hs])  request?

  hs : (listof header?) = empty

Changed in version 1.3 of package web-server-lib: Added hs argument and changed to use see-other instead of temporarily.

3.6 Stateless Web Cells🔗

The web-server/lang/web-cells library provides the same API as web-server/servlet/web-cells, but in a way compatible with the Web Language. The one difference is that make-web-cell is syntax, rather than a function.


(web-cell? v)  boolean?

  v : any/c


(make-web-cell default-expr)


(web-cell-ref wc)  any/c

  wc : web-cell?


(web-cell-shadow wc v)  void

  wc : web-cell?
  v : any/c

3.7 File Boxes🔗

As mentioned earlier, it is dangerous to rely on the store in Web Language servlets, due to the deployment scenarios available to them. This module provides a simple API to replace boxes in a safe way.


(file-box? v)  boolean?

  v : any/c
Checks if v is a file-box.


(file-box p v)  file-box?

  p : path-string?
  v : serializable?
Creates a file-box that is stored at p, with the default contents of v.


(file-unbox fb)  serializable?

  fb : file-box?
Returns the value inside fb


(file-box-set? fb)  boolean?

  fb : file-box?
Returns #t if fb contains a value.


(file-box-set! fb v)  void

  fb : file-box?
  v : serializable?
Saves v in the file represented by fb.

Warning: If you plan on using a load-balancer, make sure your file-boxes are on a shared medium.

3.8 Stateless Web Parameters🔗

It is not easy to use parameterize in the Web Language. This module provides (roughly) the same functionality in a way that is serializable. Like other serializable things in the Web Language, they are sensitive to source code modification.


(make-web-parameter default)

Expands to the definition of a web-parameter with default as the default value. A web-parameter is a procedure that, when called with zero arguments, returns default or the last value web-parameterized in the dynamic context of the call.


(web-parameter? v)  boolean?

  v : any/c
Checks if v appears to be a web-parameter.


(web-parameterize ([web-parameter-expr value-expr] ...) expr ...)

Runs (begin expr ...) such that the web-parameters that the web-parameter-exprs evaluate to are bound to the value-exprs. From the perspective of the value-exprs, this is like let.

3.9 Soft State🔗

Sometimes you want to reference a large data-structure from a stateless program without the data-structure being serialized and increasing the size of the serialization. This module provides support for this scenario.


(soft-state? v)  boolean?

  v : any/c
Determines if v is a soft state record.


(make-soft-state thnk)  soft-state?

  thnk : (-> any/c)
Creates a piece of soft state that is computed by thnk. This value is serializable.


(soft-state-ref ss)  any/c

  ss : soft-state?
Extracts the value associated with ss. If the value is not available (perhaps because of garbage collection, deserialization in an uninitialized process, etc), then the thunk associated with ss is invoked and the value is cached.


(soft-state expr ...)

Equivalent to (make-soft-state (lambda () expr ...)).

Here’s an example servlet that uses soft state:
#lang web-server
(provide interface-version start)
(define interface-version 'stateless)
(define softie
   (printf "Doing a long computation...\n")
   (sleep 1)))
(define (start req)
  (soft-state-ref softie)
  (printf "Done\n")
    (lambda (k-url)
       `(html (body (a ([href ,k-url]) "Done"))))))))

When this is run and the link is clicked a few times, the output is:

$ plt-web-server -p 8080

Doing a long computation...





If the server is restarted or the hostname in the URL is changed to a different host with the same code, and the URL is clicked:

^Cuser break

$ plt-web-server -p 8080

Doing a long computation...


3.10 Stuffers🔗

 (require web-server/stuffers) package: web-server-lib

The web-server language provides serializable continuations. The serialization functionality is abstracted into stuffers that control how it operates. You can supply your own (built with these functions) when you write a stateless servlet.

3.10.1 Basic Combinators🔗


(struct stuffer (in out)
    #:extra-constructor-name make-stuffer)
  in : (any/c . -> . any/c)
  out : (any/c . -> . any/c)
A stuffer is essentially an invertible function captured in this structure. The following should hold:
(out (in x)) = x
(in (out x)) = x


(stuffer/c dom rng)  contract?

  dom : any/c
  rng : any/c
Constructs a contract for a stuffer where in has the contract (-> dom rng) and out has the contract (-> rng dom).

The identitiy stuffer.


(stuffer-compose g f)  (stuffer/c any/c any/c)

  g : (stuffer/c any/c any/c)
  f : (stuffer/c any/c any/c)
Composes f and g, i.e., applies f then g for in and g then f for out.


(stuffer-sequence f g)  (stuffer/c any/c any/c)

  f : (stuffer/c any/c any/c)
  g : (stuffer/c any/c any/c)
stuffer-compose with arguments swapped.


(stuffer-if c f)  (stuffer/c bytes? bytes?)

  c : (bytes? . -> . boolean?)
  f : (stuffer/c bytes? bytes?)
Creates a stuffer that stuffs with f if c is true on the input to in. Similarly, applies f during out if it was applied during in (which is recorded by prepending a byte.)


(stuffer-chain x ...)  stuffer?

  x : (or/c stuffer? (bytes? . -> . boolean?))
Applies stuffer-sequence and stuffer-if to successive tails of x.

3.10.2 Serialization🔗

3.10.3 Base64 Encoding🔗

Useful for getting URL-safe bytes.

3.10.4 GZip Compression🔗

Warning: You should compose this with base64-stuffer to get URL-safe bytes.

3.10.5 Key/Value Storage🔗

The web-server/stuffers/hash stuffers rely on a key/value store.


(struct store (write read)
    #:extra-constructor-name make-store)
  write : (bytes? bytes? . -> . void)
  read : (bytes? . -> . bytes?)
The following should hold:

(begin (write k v) (read k)) = v


(dir-store root)  store?

  root : path-string?
A store that stores key key’s value in a file located at

It should be easy to use this interface to create store for databases like SQLite, CouchDB, or BerkeleyDB.

3.10.6 Hash-addressed Storage🔗

Equivalent to (-> bytes? bytes?).


(hash-stuffer H store)  (stuffer/c bytes? bytes?)

  H : hash-fun/c
  store : store?
A content-addressed storage stuffer that stores input bytes, input, in store with the key (H input) and returns the key. Similarly, on out the original bytes are looked up.


(md5-stuffer root)  (stuffer/c bytes? bytes?)

  root : path-string?
Equivalent to (hash-stuffer md5 (dir-store root))

3.10.7 HMAC-SHA1 Signing🔗


(HMAC-SHA1 kb db)  bytes?

  kb : bytes?
  db : bytes?
Performs a HMAC-SHA1 calculation on db using kb as the key. The result is guaranteed to be 20 bytes. (You could curry this to use it with hash-stuffer, but there is little value in doing so over md5.)


(HMAC-SHA1-stuffer kb)  (stuffer/c bytes? bytes?)

  kb : bytes?
A stuffer that signs input using HMAC-SHA1 with kb as the key. The result of the stuffer is the hash prepended to the input data. When the stuffer is run in reverse, it checks if the first 20 bytes are the correct has for the rest of the data.

Warning: You should compose this with base64-stuffer to get URL-safe bytes.
Warning: Without explicit provision, it is possible for users to modify the continuations they are sent through the other stuffers. This stuffer allows the servlet to certify that stuffed data was truly generated by the servlet. Therefore, you should use this if you are not using the hash-stuffers.
Warning: This stuffer does not encrypt the data in anyway, so users can still observe the stuffed values.

3.10.8 Helpers🔗


(is-url-too-big? v)  boolean?

  v : bytes?
Determines if stuffing v into the current servlet’s URL would result in a URL that is too big for Internet Explorer. (IE only supports URLs up to 2048 characters.)


(make-default-stuffer root)  (stuffer/c serializable? bytes?)

  root : path-string?
Constructs a stuffer that serializes, then if the URL is too big, compresses (and base64-encodes), if the URL is still too big then it stores it in an MD5-indexed database rooted at root.

Equivalent to:
  (find-system-path 'home-dir)