An open-source server from the W3C that maps out one vision of the Web''s future

An open-source server from the W3C that maps out one vision of the Web''s future

June 5, 2002

Jigsaw is not the sort of Web server that you'd base an enterprise-level Internet presence around. But if you're at all serious about staying ahead of the curve when it comes to the cutting edge of Web protocols and infrastructures, you'll want to have a test machine running Jigsaw somewhere.

Jigsaw 2.0, as developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is designed to be a technology demonstration rather than a full-fledged release. It's purposely intended as a project to showcase new technologies, but in the case of Jigsaw 2.0, this Web server also ends up being more robust than the average Web server. Most importantly, though, Jigsaw serves as a useful blueprint to the future of the HTTP protocol and object-oriented Web servers.

As with many of the new breed of Web servers, Jigsaw is written totally in Java and works within an object-oriented framework. Since it's written entirely in Java, it can run under any operating system supporting the Java Development Kit (JDK); W3C reports that Jigsaw works under Windows 95/98/NT and Solaris 2.x, while other users have reported success with AIX, OS/2, BeOS and MacOS. Java also enables Jigsaw to be extensible and portable across server platforms.

The object-oriented design, while not totally new in the Web-server world (even Apache is object-oriented to an extent), is taken to the logical extreme by Jigsaw. Jigsaw at its core is nothing but a set of Java classes and extension modules. When you want to add capabilities, you can dynamically add your own modules to the server. And every resource available to the server is an object (as opposed to a CGI script or file), which means that any object can be made available to end users via HTTP or other defined protocols.

W3C is responsible for overseeing Web standards, and anyone wishing conformity with HTTP/1.1 and the upcoming HTTP-NG (for Next Generation) will want to do some testing with Jigsaw, as the latest version is totally 1.1-compliant. We set up a Jigsaw server and threw some curveballs at it -- purposely testing 1.1-compliance -- and the server handled all the tasks well. Over a longish testing period, Jigsaw also proved to be very stable on a Windows NT system.

Looking at Jigsaw a little more critically, it's clear that this technology demonstration really isn't ready for prime-time deployment. For instance, there's no support for virtual hosts and domains. However, one area that is ready for prime time is Jigsaw's Java-based administration applet, which makes administration go smoothly. (Alas, this tool doesn't run within a Web browser, but it can be run remotely.) You can also perform administration via a series of HTML forms. If you get lost, the Web-based documentation (both for administrators and programmers) is excellent.

Jigsaw may not be totally ready for prime time, but it is invaluable as a technology demonstration for anyone wishing to see the future of Web servers.

Pros: 7 Applet-based remote administration, 7 Excellent documentation, 7 Written totally in Java, 7 Object-oriented designed lets anything be treated as an object

Cons: 7 Lacks many tools needed for commercial Web server, including advanced authentication and security tools, Microsoft FrontPage Extensions support, and browser-based administration