Boost C++ Libraries Home Libraries People FAQ More



#include <boost/cgi.hpp>
using namespace boost::cgi;

int main()
  request req;
  response resp;

  resp<< "Hello there, Universe. "
      << "-- " << req.get["name"];

  return commit(req, resp); // write the response

An example request:


Output (as viewed in a web browser):

Hello there, Universe. -- Mr. Allison

This CGI library is a reasonably high-level library for creating CGI or FastCGI programs and its scope is intentionally limited to the ''controller'' portion of the Model-View-Controller idiom. If you want access to XML / HTML templates, you should consider taking a look at cTemplate or the Karma part of Boost.Spirit. A very lightweight wrapper over cTemplate is provided with the library in the form of the stencil class, which you may find useful.


The library provides abstractions which hide details of the varying specifications of CGI and FastCGI. The main abstractions are, briefly:




Access to all request data is done through a Request object.


For those of you familiar with Boost.Asio, this is very similar to the io_service class (it actually uses one or more of these for its functionality). Its purpose is to provide certain guarantees when you are using asynchronous functions and/or multiple threads, so it essentially underpins the whole library.


CGI applications handle one request per process, a limitation which doesn't apply to SCGI and FastCGI applications. Using a RequestAcceptor allows you to ignore protocol-specific details, without losing track of how fast each process takes on new requests.


Using the Response class is only recommended, not required. It is a generally useful class for writing responses to requests. The class is lightweight and responses are protocol agnostic, allowing a response for a CGI request to be used to reply to a FastCGI request.

Client [1] .

Each request has an associated Client, which may represent a connection to the HTTP server associated with the current request. It is used when writing replies to requests. Note: it is possible to avoid exposure to it entirely if you use the response class and commit().

[1] Taken from simultaneous suggestions by Phil Endecott and Chris Kohlhoff


In a nutshell, CGI is the simple and 'original' way of communicating with web servers. I'll assume you know what it is: one request per process and communication using standard input/output. A nice and simple way of making dynamic web pages.

[Tip] Tip

If you're new to CGI, have a look at the original "spec": or on Wikipedia.

FastCGI was developed as a means of allowing much more scalable CGI-like programs to be written. In fact, the FastCGI specification implies extreme efficiency and scalability were key motivations for the protocol. In FastCGI, communication with the server works over sockets or pipes using a binary-encoded protocol. Each process and each connection can be used for handling multiple requests, simultaneously if necessary. In theory this means you could have a single monolithic process behind your HTTP server handling all incoming requests concurrently.

[Note] Note

Some initial benchmarks show that the simplest FastCGI programs are 3-5x faster than their CGI counterparts. When database connections, HTML templates or any other expensive state is required the gap will be more significant.

Multiple Requests per Process

Having persistent processes is very handy: this feature alone removes many of the limitations of traditional CGI programming.

Instead of CGI 'scripts', you can suddenly have FastCGI daemons, which aren't so different to desktop applications! Your web applications can handle an arbitrary number of requests with each invocation (assuming they don't crash, or leak memory!). You have the freedom to keep database connections open between requests or cache ready-parsed responses, for example. It becomes realistic to store expensive state in your web applications, safely under the assumption that your program starts up and shuts down infrequently and done preemptively by your favourite web server. Processing of a client request can even be continued in the case of the client crashing - the response can then be stored and given to them when they return - saving precious CPU cycles.

The downside is added complexity: managing multiple requests and having to keep a tight reign on memory/resource consumption.

You might think dealing with request queues could be a handful but, fortunately, management of the queue (or queues, if you'd prefer) can be largely isolated from everything else. Accepting requests and handling them are your two key responsibilities. That means that after you have set up a 'server' (ie. something that gathers requests), requests can be handled in an essentially protocol-agnostic way.

Now on to some demonstrations...