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Table of Contents
- [Intro](#intro)
- [git](#git)
- [Portability](#Portability)
- [Windows vs Unix](#winvsunix)
- [Library](#Library)
- [`Curl_connect`](#Curl_connect)
- [`Curl_do`](#Curl_do)
- [`Curl_readwrite`](#Curl_readwrite)
- [`Curl_done`](#Curl_done)
- [`Curl_disconnect`](#Curl_disconnect)
- [HTTP(S)](#http)
- [FTP](#ftp)
- [Kerberos](#kerberos)
- [TELNET](#telnet)
- [FILE](#file)
- [SMB](#smb)
- [LDAP](#ldap)
- [E-mail](#email)
- [General](#general)
- [Persistent Connections](#persistent)
- [multi interface/non-blocking](#multi)
- [SSL libraries](#ssl)
- [Library Symbols](#symbols)
- [Return Codes and Informationals](#returncodes)
- [AP/ABI](#abi)
- [Client](#client)
- [Memory Debugging](#memorydebug)
- [Test Suite](#test)
- [Asynchronous name resolves](#asyncdns)
- [c-ares](#cares)
- [`curl_off_t`](#curl_off_t)
- [curlx](#curlx)
- [Content Encoding](#contentencoding)
- [hostip.c explained](#hostip)
- [Track Down Memory Leaks](#memoryleak)
- [`multi_socket`](#multi_socket)
- [Structs in libcurl](#structs)
<a name="intro"></a>
curl internals
This project is split in two. The library and the client. The client part
uses the library, but the library is designed to allow other applications to
use it.
The largest amount of code and complexity is in the library part.
<a name="git"></a>
All changes to the sources are committed to the git repository as soon as
they're somewhat verified to work. Changes shall be committed as independently
as possible so that individual changes can be easier spotted and tracked
Tagging shall be used extensively, and by the time we release new archives we
should tag the sources with a name similar to the released version number.
<a name="Portability"></a>
We write curl and libcurl to compile with C89 compilers. On 32bit and up
machines. Most of libcurl assumes more or less POSIX compliance but that's
not a requirement.
We write libcurl to build and work with lots of third party tools, and we
want it to remain functional and buildable with these and later versions
(older versions may still work but is not what we work hard to maintain):
- OpenSSL 0.9.7
- GnuTLS 1.2
- zlib 1.1.4
- libssh2 0.16
- c-ares 1.6.0
- libidn 0.4.1
- cyassl 2.0.0
- openldap 2.0
- MIT Kerberos 1.2.4
- GSKit V5R3M0
- NSS 3.14.x
- axTLS 1.2.7
- PolarSSL 1.3.0
- Heimdal ?
- nghttp2 1.0.0
Operating Systems
On systems where configure runs, we aim at working on them all - if they have
a suitable C compiler. On systems that don't run configure, we strive to keep
curl running fine on:
- Windows 98
- AS/400 V5R3M0
- Symbian 9.1
- Windows CE ?
- TPF ?
Build tools
When writing code (mostly for generating stuff included in release tarballs)
we use a few "build tools" and we make sure that we remain functional with
these versions:
- GNU Libtool 1.4.2
- GNU Autoconf 2.57
- GNU Automake 1.7
- GNU M4 1.4
- perl 5.004
- roffit 0.5
- groff ? (any version that supports "groff -Tps -man [in] [out]")
- ps2pdf (gs) ?
<a name="winvsunix"></a>
Windows vs Unix
There are a few differences in how to program curl the unix way compared to
the Windows way. The four perhaps most notable details are:
1. Different function names for socket operations.
In curl, this is solved with defines and macros, so that the source looks
the same at all places except for the header file that defines them. The
macros in use are sclose(), sread() and swrite().
2. Windows requires a couple of init calls for the socket stuff.
That's taken care of by the `curl_global_init()` call, but if other libs
also do it etc there might be reasons for applications to alter that
3. The file descriptors for network communication and file operations are
not easily interchangeable as in unix.
We avoid this by not trying any funny tricks on file descriptors.
4. When writing data to stdout, Windows makes end-of-lines the DOS way, thus
destroying binary data, although you do want that conversion if it is
text coming through... (sigh)
We set stdout to binary under windows
Inside the source code, We make an effort to avoid `#ifdef [Your OS]`. All
conditionals that deal with features *should* instead be in the format
`#ifdef HAVE_THAT_WEIRD_FUNCTION`. Since Windows can't run configure scripts,
we maintain a `curl_config-win32.h` file in lib directory that is supposed to
look exactly as a `curl_config.h` file would have looked like on a Windows
Generally speaking: always remember that this will be compiled on dozens of
operating systems. Don't walk on the edge.
<a name="Library"></a>
(See [Structs in libcurl](#structs) for the separate section describing all
major internal structs and their purposes.)
There are plenty of entry points to the library, namely each publicly defined
function that libcurl offers to applications. All of those functions are
rather small and easy-to-follow. All the ones prefixed with `curl_easy` are
put in the lib/easy.c file.
`curl_global_init_()` and `curl_global_cleanup()` should be called by the
application to initialize and clean up global stuff in the library. As of
today, it can handle the global SSL initing if SSL is enabled and it can init
the socket layer on windows machines. libcurl itself has no "global" scope.
All printf()-style functions use the supplied clones in lib/mprintf.c. This
makes sure we stay absolutely platform independent.
[ `curl_easy_init()`][2] allocates an internal struct and makes some
initializations. The returned handle does not reveal internals. This is the
'Curl_easy' struct which works as an "anchor" struct for all `curl_easy`
functions. All connections performed will get connect-specific data allocated
that should be used for things related to particular connections/requests.
[`curl_easy_setopt()`][1] takes three arguments, where the option stuff must
be passed in pairs: the parameter-ID and the parameter-value. The list of
options is documented in the man page. This function mainly sets things in
the 'Curl_easy' struct.
`curl_easy_perform()` is just a wrapper function that makes use of the multi
API. It basically calls `curl_multi_init()`, `curl_multi_add_handle()`,
`curl_multi_wait()`, and `curl_multi_perform()` until the transfer is done
and then returns.
Some of the most important key functions in url.c are called from multi.c
when certain key steps are to be made in the transfer operation.
<a name="Curl_connect"></a>
Analyzes the URL, it separates the different components and connects to the
remote host. This may involve using a proxy and/or using SSL. The
`Curl_resolv()` function in lib/hostip.c is used for looking up host names
(it does then use the proper underlying method, which may vary between
platforms and builds).
When `Curl_connect` is done, we are connected to the remote site. Then it
is time to tell the server to get a document/file. `Curl_do()` arranges
This function makes sure there's an allocated and initiated 'connectdata'
struct that is used for this particular connection only (although there may
be several requests performed on the same connect). A bunch of things are
inited/inherited from the Curl_easy struct.
<a name="Curl_do"></a>
`Curl_do()` makes sure the proper protocol-specific function is called. The
functions are named after the protocols they handle.
The protocol-specific functions of course deal with protocol-specific
negotiations and setup. They have access to the `Curl_sendf()` (from
lib/sendf.c) function to send printf-style formatted data to the remote
host and when they're ready to make the actual file transfer they call the
`Curl_Transfer()` function (in lib/transfer.c) to setup the transfer and
If this DO function fails and the connection is being re-used, libcurl will
then close this connection, setup a new connection and re-issue the DO
request on that. This is because there is no way to be perfectly sure that
we have discovered a dead connection before the DO function and thus we
might wrongly be re-using a connection that was closed by the remote peer.
Some time during the DO function, the `Curl_setup_transfer()` function must
be called with some basic info about the upcoming transfer: what socket(s)
to read/write and the expected file transfer sizes (if known).
<a name="Curl_readwrite"></a>
Called during the transfer of the actual protocol payload.
During transfer, the progress functions in lib/progress.c are called at a
frequent interval (or at the user's choice, a specified callback might get
called). The speedcheck functions in lib/speedcheck.c are also used to
verify that the transfer is as fast as required.
<a name="Curl_done"></a>
Called after a transfer is done. This function takes care of everything
that has to be done after a transfer. This function attempts to leave
matters in a state so that `Curl_do()` should be possible to call again on
the same connection (in a persistent connection case). It might also soon
be closed with `Curl_disconnect()`.
<a name="Curl_disconnect"></a>
When doing normal connections and transfers, no one ever tries to close any
connections so this is not normally called when `curl_easy_perform()` is
used. This function is only used when we are certain that no more transfers
is going to be made on the connection. It can be also closed by force, or
it can be called to make sure that libcurl doesn't keep too many
connections alive at the same time.
This function cleans up all resources that are associated with a single
<a name="http"></a>
HTTP offers a lot and is the protocol in curl that uses the most lines of
code. There is a special file (lib/formdata.c) that offers all the multipart
post functions.
base64-functions for user+password stuff (and more) is in (lib/base64.c) and
all functions for parsing and sending cookies are found in (lib/cookie.c).
HTTPS uses in almost every means the same procedure as HTTP, with only two
exceptions: the connect procedure is different and the function used to read
or write from the socket is different, although the latter fact is hidden in
the source by the use of `Curl_read()` for reading and `Curl_write()` for
writing data to the remote server.
`http_chunks.c` contains functions that understands HTTP 1.1 chunked transfer
An interesting detail with the HTTP(S) request, is the `Curl_add_buffer()`
series of functions we use. They append data to one single buffer, and when
the building is done the entire request is sent off in one single write. This
is done this way to overcome problems with flawed firewalls and lame servers.
<a name="ftp"></a>
The `Curl_if2ip()` function can be used for getting the IP number of a
specified network interface, and it resides in lib/if2ip.c.
`Curl_ftpsendf()` is used for sending FTP commands to the remote server. It
was made a separate function to prevent us programmers from forgetting that
they must be CRLF terminated. They must also be sent in one single write() to
make firewalls and similar happy.
<a name="kerberos"></a>
Kerberos support is mainly in lib/krb5.c and lib/security.c but also
`curl_sasl_sspi.c` and `curl_sasl_gssapi.c` for the email protocols and
`socks_gssapi.c` and `socks_sspi.c` for SOCKS5 proxy specifics.
<a name="telnet"></a>
Telnet is implemented in lib/telnet.c.
<a name="file"></a>
The file:// protocol is dealt with in lib/file.c.
<a name="smb"></a>
The smb:// protocol is dealt with in lib/smb.c.
<a name="ldap"></a>
Everything LDAP is in lib/ldap.c and lib/openldap.c
<a name="email"></a>
The e-mail related source code is in lib/imap.c, lib/pop3.c and lib/smtp.c.
<a name="general"></a>
URL encoding and decoding, called escaping and unescaping in the source code,
is found in lib/escape.c.
While transferring data in Transfer() a few functions might get used.
`curl_getdate()` in lib/parsedate.c is for HTTP date comparisons (and more).
lib/getenv.c offers `curl_getenv()` which is for reading environment
variables in a neat platform independent way. That's used in the client, but
also in lib/url.c when checking the proxy environment variables. Note that
contrary to the normal unix getenv(), this returns an allocated buffer that
must be free()ed after use.
lib/netrc.c holds the .netrc parser
lib/timeval.c features replacement functions for systems that don't have
gettimeofday() and a few support functions for timeval conversions.
A function named `curl_version()` that returns the full curl version string
is found in lib/version.c.
<a name="persistent"></a>
Persistent Connections
The persistent connection support in libcurl requires some considerations on
how to do things inside of the library.
- The 'Curl_easy' struct returned in the [`curl_easy_init()`][2] call
must never hold connection-oriented data. It is meant to hold the root data
as well as all the options etc that the library-user may choose.
- The 'Curl_easy' struct holds the "connection cache" (an array of
pointers to 'connectdata' structs).
- This enables the 'curl handle' to be reused on subsequent transfers.
- When libcurl is told to perform a transfer, it first checks for an already
existing connection in the cache that we can use. Otherwise it creates a
new one and adds that the cache. If the cache is full already when a new
connection is added added, it will first close the oldest unused one.
- When the transfer operation is complete, the connection is left
open. Particular options may tell libcurl not to, and protocols may signal
closure on connections and then they won't be kept open of course.
- When `curl_easy_cleanup()` is called, we close all still opened connections,
unless of course the multi interface "owns" the connections.
The curl handle must be re-used in order for the persistent connections to
<a name="multi"></a>
multi interface/non-blocking
The multi interface is a non-blocking interface to the library. To make that
interface work as good as possible, no low-level functions within libcurl
must be written to work in a blocking manner. (There are still a few spots
violating this rule.)
One of the primary reasons we introduced c-ares support was to allow the name
resolve phase to be perfectly non-blocking as well.
The FTP and the SFTP/SCP protocols are examples of how we adapt and adjust
the code to allow non-blocking operations even on multi-stage command-
response protocols. They are built around state machines that return when
they would otherwise block waiting for data. The DICT, LDAP and TELNET
protocols are crappy examples and they are subject for rewrite in the future
to better fit the libcurl protocol family.
<a name="ssl"></a>
SSL libraries
Originally libcurl supported SSLeay for SSL/TLS transports, but that was then
extended to its successor OpenSSL but has since also been extended to several
other SSL/TLS libraries and we expect and hope to further extend the support
in future libcurl versions.
To deal with this internally in the best way possible, we have a generic SSL
function API as provided by the vtls/vtls.[ch] system, and they are the only
SSL functions we must use from within libcurl. vtls is then crafted to use
the appropriate lower-level function calls to whatever SSL library that is in
use. For example vtls/openssl.[ch] for the OpenSSL library.
<a name="symbols"></a>
Library Symbols
All symbols used internally in libcurl must use a `Curl_` prefix if they're
used in more than a single file. Single-file symbols must be made static.
Public ("exported") symbols must use a `curl_` prefix. (There are exceptions,
but they are to be changed to follow this pattern in future versions.) Public
API functions are marked with `CURL_EXTERN` in the public header files so
that all others can be hidden on platforms where this is possible.
<a name="returncodes"></a>
Return Codes and Informationals
I've made things simple. Almost every function in libcurl returns a CURLcode,
that must be `CURLE_OK` if everything is OK or otherwise a suitable error
code as the curl/curl.h include file defines. The very spot that detects an
error must use the `Curl_failf()` function to set the human-readable error
In aiding the user to understand what's happening and to debug curl usage, we
must supply a fair amount of informational messages by using the
`Curl_infof()` function. Those messages are only displayed when the user
explicitly asks for them. They are best used when revealing information that
isn't otherwise obvious.
<a name="abi"></a>
We make an effort to not export or show internals or how internals work, as
that makes it easier to keep a solid API/ABI over time. See docs/libcurl/ABI
for our promise to users.
<a name="client"></a>
main() resides in `src/tool_main.c`.
`src/tool_hugehelp.c` is automatically generated by the perl script
to display the complete "manual" and the src/tool_urlglob.c file holds the
functions used for the URL-"globbing" support. Globbing in the sense that the
{} and [] expansion stuff is there.
The client mostly messes around to setup its 'config' struct properly, then
it calls the `curl_easy_*()` functions of the library and when it gets back
control after the `curl_easy_perform()` it cleans up the library, checks
status and exits.
When the operation is done, the ourWriteOut() function in src/writeout.c may
be called to report about the operation. That function is using the
`curl_easy_getinfo()` function to extract useful information from the curl
It may loop and do all this several times if many URLs were specified on the
command line or config file.
<a name="memorydebug"></a>
Memory Debugging
The file lib/memdebug.c contains debug-versions of a few functions. Functions
such as malloc, free, fopen, fclose, etc that somehow deal with resources
that might give us problems if we "leak" them. The functions in the memdebug
system do nothing fancy, they do their normal function and then log
information about what they just did. The logged data can then be analyzed
after a complete session, is the perl script present in tests/ that analyzes a log file
generated by the memory tracking system. It detects if resources are
allocated but never freed and other kinds of errors related to resource
Internally, definition of preprocessor symbol DEBUGBUILD restricts code which
is only compiled for debug enabled builds. And symbol CURLDEBUG is used to
differentiate code which is _only_ used for memory tracking/debugging.
Use -DCURLDEBUG when compiling to enable memory debugging, this is also
switched on by running configure with --enable-curldebug. Use -DDEBUGBUILD
when compiling to enable a debug build or run configure with --enable-debug.
curl --version will list 'Debug' feature for debug enabled builds, and
will list 'TrackMemory' feature for curl debug memory tracking capable
builds. These features are independent and can be controlled when running
the configure script. When --enable-debug is given both features will be
enabled, unless some restriction prevents memory tracking from being used.
<a name="test"></a>
Test Suite
The test suite is placed in its own subdirectory directly off the root in the
curl archive tree, and it contains a bunch of scripts and a lot of test case
The main test script is that will invoke test servers like and before all the test cases are performed. The
test suite currently only runs on unix-like platforms.
You'll find a description of the test suite in the tests/README file, and the
test case data files in the tests/FILEFORMAT file.
The test suite automatically detects if curl was built with the memory
debugging enabled, and if it was it will detect memory leaks, too.
<a name="asyncdns"></a>
Asynchronous name resolves
libcurl can be built to do name resolves asynchronously, using either the
normal resolver in a threaded manner or by using c-ares.
<a name="cares"></a>
### Build libcurl to use a c-ares
1. ./configure --enable-ares=/path/to/ares/install
2. make
### c-ares on win32
First I compiled c-ares. I changed the default C runtime library to be the
single-threaded rather than the multi-threaded (this seems to be required to
prevent linking errors later on). Then I simply build the areslib project
(the other projects adig/ahost seem to fail under MSVC).
Next was libcurl. I opened lib/config-win32.h and I added a:
`#define USE_ARES 1`
Next thing I did was I added the path for the ares includes to the include
path, and the libares.lib to the libraries.
Lastly, I also changed libcurl to be single-threaded rather than
multi-threaded, again this was to prevent some duplicate symbol errors. I'm
not sure why I needed to change everything to single-threaded, but when I
didn't I got redefinition errors for several CRT functions (malloc, stricmp,
<a name="curl_off_t"></a>
curl_off_t is a data type provided by the external libcurl include
headers. It is the type meant to be used for the [`curl_easy_setopt()`][1]
options that end with LARGE. The type is 64bit large on most modern
The libcurl source code offers a few functions by source only. They are not
part of the official libcurl API, but the source files might be useful for
others so apps can optionally compile/build with these sources to gain
additional functions.
We provide them through a single header file for easy access for apps:
A macro that converts a string containing a number to a curl_off_t number.
This might use the curlx_strtoll() function which is provided as source
code in strtoofft.c. Note that the function is only provided if no
strtoll() (or equivalent) function exist on your platform. If curl_off_t
is only a 32 bit number on your platform, this macro uses strtol().
returns a struct timeval for the current time.
returns the difference between two timeval structs, in number of
returns the same as curlx_tvdiff but with full usec resolution (as a
Several functions will be removed from the public curl_ name space in a
future libcurl release. They will then only become available as curlx_
functions instead. To make the transition easier, we already today provide
these functions with the curlx_ prefix to allow sources to get built properly
with the new function names. The functions this concerns are:
- `curlx_getenv`
- `curlx_strequal`
- `curlx_strnequal`
- `curlx_mvsnprintf`
- `curlx_msnprintf`
- `curlx_maprintf`
- `curlx_mvaprintf`
- `curlx_msprintf`
- `curlx_mprintf`
- `curlx_mfprintf`
- `curlx_mvsprintf`
- `curlx_mvprintf`
- `curlx_mvfprintf`
<a name="contentencoding"></a>
Content Encoding
## About content encodings
[HTTP/1.1][4] specifies that a client may request that a server encode its
response. This is usually used to compress a response using one of a set of
commonly available compression techniques. These schemes are 'deflate' (the
zlib algorithm), 'gzip' and 'compress'. A client requests that the sever
perform an encoding by including an Accept-Encoding header in the request
document. The value of the header should be one of the recognized tokens
'deflate', ... (there's a way to register new schemes/tokens, see sec 3.5 of
the spec). A server MAY honor the client's encoding request. When a response
is encoded, the server includes a Content-Encoding header in the
response. The value of the Content-Encoding header indicates which scheme was
used to encode the data.
A client may tell a server that it can understand several different encoding
schemes. In this case the server may choose any one of those and use it to
encode the response (indicating which one using the Content-Encoding header).
It's also possible for a client to attach priorities to different schemes so
that the server knows which it prefers. See sec 14.3 of RFC 2616 for more
information on the Accept-Encoding header.
## Supported content encodings
The 'deflate' and 'gzip' content encoding are supported by libcurl. Both
regular and chunked transfers work fine. The zlib library is required for
this feature.
## The libcurl interface
To cause libcurl to request a content encoding use:
[`curl_easy_setopt`][1](curl, [`CURLOPT_ACCEPT_ENCODING`][5], string)
where string is the intended value of the Accept-Encoding header.
Currently, libcurl only understands how to process responses that use the
"deflate" or "gzip" Content-Encoding, so the only values for
[`CURLOPT_ACCEPT_ENCODING`][5] that will work (besides "identity," which does
nothing) are "deflate" and "gzip" If a response is encoded using the
"compress" or methods, libcurl will return an error indicating that the
response could not be decoded. If <string> is NULL no Accept-Encoding header
is generated. If <string> is a zero-length string, then an Accept-Encoding
header containing all supported encodings will be generated.
The [`CURLOPT_ACCEPT_ENCODING`][5] must be set to any non-NULL value for
content to be automatically decoded. If it is not set and the server still
sends encoded content (despite not having been asked), the data is returned
in its raw form and the Content-Encoding type is not checked.
## The curl interface
Use the [--compressed][6] option with curl to cause it to ask servers to
compress responses using any format supported by curl.
<a name="hostip"></a>
hostip.c explained
The main compile-time defines to keep in mind when reading the host*.c source
file are these:
this host has getaddrinfo() and family, and thus we use that. The host may
not be able to resolve IPv6, but we don't really have to take that into
account. Hosts that aren't IPv6-enabled have CURLRES_IPV4 defined.
is defined if libcurl is built to use c-ares for asynchronous name
resolves. This can be Windows or *nix.
is defined if libcurl is built to use threading for asynchronous name
resolves. The name resolve will be done in a new thread, and the supported
asynch API will be the same as for ares-builds. This is the default under
(native) Windows.
If any of the two previous are defined, `CURLRES_ASYNCH` is defined too. If
libcurl is not built to use an asynchronous resolver, `CURLRES_SYNCH` is
## host*.c sources
The host*.c sources files are split up like this:
- hostip.c - method-independent resolver functions and utility functions
- hostasyn.c - functions for asynchronous name resolves
- hostsyn.c - functions for synchronous name resolves
- asyn-ares.c - functions for asynchronous name resolves using c-ares
- asyn-thread.c - functions for asynchronous name resolves using threads
- hostip4.c - IPv4 specific functions
- hostip6.c - IPv6 specific functions
The hostip.h is the single united header file for all this. It defines the
`CURLRES_*` defines based on the config*.h and curl_setup.h defines.
<a name="memoryleak"></a>
Track Down Memory Leaks
## Single-threaded
Please note that this memory leak system is not adjusted to work in more
than one thread. If you want/need to use it in a multi-threaded app. Please
adjust accordingly.
## Build
Rebuild libcurl with -DCURLDEBUG (usually, rerunning configure with
--enable-debug fixes this). 'make clean' first, then 'make' so that all
files actually are rebuilt properly. It will also make sense to build
libcurl with the debug option (usually -g to the compiler) so that debugging
it will be easier if you actually do find a leak in the library.
This will create a library that has memory debugging enabled.
## Modify Your Application
Add a line in your application code:
This will make the malloc debug system output a full trace of all resource
using functions to the given file name. Make sure you rebuild your program
and that you link with the same libcurl you built for this purpose as
described above.
## Run Your Application
Run your program as usual. Watch the specified memory trace file grow.
Make your program exit and use the proper libcurl cleanup functions etc. So
that all non-leaks are returned/freed properly.
## Analyze the Flow
Use the tests/ perl script to analyze the dump file:
tests/ dump
This now outputs a report on what resources that were allocated but never
freed etc. This report is very fine for posting to the list!
If this doesn't produce any output, no leak was detected in libcurl. Then
the leak is mostly likely to be in your code.
<a name="multi_socket"></a>
Implementation of the `curl_multi_socket` API
The main ideas of this API are simply:
1 - The application can use whatever event system it likes as it gets info
from libcurl about what file descriptors libcurl waits for what action
on. (The previous API returns `fd_sets` which is very select()-centric).
2 - When the application discovers action on a single socket, it calls
libcurl and informs that there was action on this particular socket and
libcurl can then act on that socket/transfer only and not care about
any other transfers. (The previous API always had to scan through all
the existing transfers.)
The idea is that [`curl_multi_socket_action()`][7] calls a given callback
with information about what socket to wait for what action on, and the
callback only gets called if the status of that socket has changed.
We also added a timer callback that makes libcurl call the application when
the timeout value changes, and you set that with [`curl_multi_setopt()`][9]
and the [`CURLMOPT_TIMERFUNCTION`][10] option. To get this to work,
Internally, there's an added a struct to each easy handle in which we store
an "expire time" (if any). The structs are then "splay sorted" so that we
can add and remove times from the linked list and yet somewhat swiftly
figure out both how long time there is until the next nearest timer expires
and which timer (handle) we should take care of now. Of course, the upside
of all this is that we get a [`curl_multi_timeout()`][8] that should also
work with old-style applications that use [`curl_multi_perform()`][11].
We created an internal "socket to easy handles" hash table that given
a socket (file descriptor) return the easy handle that waits for action on
that socket. This hash is made using the already existing hash code
(previously only used for the DNS cache).
To make libcurl able to report plain sockets in the socket callback, we had
to re-organize the internals of the [`curl_multi_fdset()`][12] etc so that
the conversion from sockets to `fd_sets` for that function is only done in
the last step before the data is returned. I also had to extend c-ares to
get a function that can return plain sockets, as that library too returned
only `fd_sets` and that is no longer good enough. The changes done to c-ares
are available in c-ares 1.3.1 and later.
<a name="structs"></a>
Structs in libcurl
This section should cover 7.32.0 pretty accurately, but will make sense even
for older and later versions as things don't change drastically that often.
## Curl_easy
The Curl_easy struct is the one returned to the outside in the external API
as a "CURL *". This is usually known as an easy handle in API documentations
and examples.
Information and state that is related to the actual connection is in the
'connectdata' struct. When a transfer is about to be made, libcurl will
either create a new connection or re-use an existing one. The particular
connectdata that is used by this handle is pointed out by
Data and information that regard this particular single transfer is put in
the SingleRequest sub-struct.
When the Curl_easy struct is added to a multi handle, as it must be in order
to do any transfer, the ->multi member will point to the `Curl_multi` struct
it belongs to. The ->prev and ->next members will then be used by the multi
code to keep a linked list of Curl_easy structs that are added to that same
multi handle. libcurl always uses multi so ->multi *will* point to a
`Curl_multi` when a transfer is in progress.
->mstate is the multi state of this particular Curl_easy. When
`multi_runsingle()` is called, it will act on this handle according to which
state it is in. The mstate is also what tells which sockets to return for a
specific Curl_easy when [`curl_multi_fdset()`][12] is called etc.
The libcurl source code generally use the name 'data' for the variable that
points to the Curl_easy.
When doing multiplexed HTTP/2 transfers, each Curl_easy is associated with
an individual stream, sharing the same connectdata struct. Multiplexing
makes it even more important to keep things associated with the right thing!
## connectdata
A general idea in libcurl is to keep connections around in a connection
"cache" after they have been used in case they will be used again and then
re-use an existing one instead of creating a new as it creates a significant
performance boost.
Each 'connectdata' identifies a single physical connection to a server. If
the connection can't be kept alive, the connection will be closed after use
and then this struct can be removed from the cache and freed.
Thus, the same Curl_easy can be used multiple times and each time select
another connectdata struct to use for the connection. Keep this in mind, as
it is then important to consider if options or choices are based on the
connection or the Curl_easy.
Functions in libcurl will assume that connectdata->data points to the
Curl_easy that uses this connection (for the moment).
As a special complexity, some protocols supported by libcurl require a
special disconnect procedure that is more than just shutting down the
socket. It can involve sending one or more commands to the server before
doing so. Since connections are kept in the connection cache after use, the
original Curl_easy may no longer be around when the time comes to shut down
a particular connection. For this purpose, libcurl holds a special dummy
`closure_handle` Curl_easy in the `Curl_multi` struct to use when needed.
FTP uses two TCP connections for a typical transfer but it keeps both in
this single struct and thus can be considered a single connection for most
internal concerns.
The libcurl source code generally use the name 'conn' for the variable that
points to the connectdata.
## Curl_multi
Internally, the easy interface is implemented as a wrapper around multi
interface functions. This makes everything multi interface.
`Curl_multi` is the multi handle struct exposed as "CURLM *" in external APIs.
This struct holds a list of Curl_easy structs that have been added to this
handle with [`curl_multi_add_handle()`][13]. The start of the list is
->easyp and ->num_easy is a counter of added Curl_easys.
->msglist is a linked list of messages to send back when
[`curl_multi_info_read()`][14] is called. Basically a node is added to that
list when an individual Curl_easy's transfer has completed.
->hostcache points to the name cache. It is a hash table for looking up name
to IP. The nodes have a limited life time in there and this cache is meant
to reduce the time for when the same name is wanted within a short period of
->timetree points to a tree of Curl_easys, sorted by the remaining time
until it should be checked - normally some sort of timeout. Each Curl_easy
has one node in the tree.
->sockhash is a hash table to allow fast lookups of socket descriptor to
which Curl_easy that uses that descriptor. This is necessary for the
`multi_socket` API.
->conn_cache points to the connection cache. It keeps track of all
connections that are kept after use. The cache has a maximum size.
->closure_handle is described in the 'connectdata' section.
The libcurl source code generally use the name 'multi' for the variable that
points to the Curl_multi struct.
## Curl_handler
Each unique protocol that is supported by libcurl needs to provide at least
one `Curl_handler` struct. It defines what the protocol is called and what
functions the main code should call to deal with protocol specific issues.
In general, there's a source file named [protocol].c in which there's a
"struct `Curl_handler` `Curl_handler_[protocol]`" declared. In url.c there's
then the main array with all individual `Curl_handler` structs pointed to
from a single array which is scanned through when a URL is given to libcurl
to work with.
->scheme is the URL scheme name, usually spelled out in uppercase. That's
"HTTP" or "FTP" etc. SSL versions of the protcol need its own `Curl_handler`
setup so HTTPS separate from HTTP.
->setup_connection is called to allow the protocol code to allocate protocol
specific data that then gets associated with that Curl_easy for the rest of
this transfer. It gets freed again at the end of the transfer. It will be
called before the 'connectdata' for the transfer has been selected/created.
Most protocols will allocate its private 'struct [PROTOCOL]' here and assign
Curl_easy->req.protop to point to it.
->connect_it allows a protocol to do some specific actions after the TCP
connect is done, that can still be considered part of the connection phase.
Some protocols will alter the connectdata->recv[] and connectdata->send[]
function pointers in this function.
->connecting is similarly a function that keeps getting called as long as the
protocol considers itself still in the connecting phase.
->do_it is the function called to issue the transfer request. What we call
the DO action internally. If the DO is not enough and things need to be kept
getting done for the entire DO sequence to complete, ->doing is then usually
also provided. Each protocol that needs to do multiple commands or similar
for do/doing need to implement their own state machines (see SCP, SFTP,
FTP). Some protocols (only FTP and only due to historical reasons) has a
separate piece of the DO state called `DO_MORE`.
->doing keeps getting called while issuing the transfer request command(s)
->done gets called when the transfer is complete and DONE. That's after the
main data has been transferred.
->do_more gets called during the `DO_MORE` state. The FTP protocol uses this
state when setting up the second connection.
Functions that return socket information. Which socket(s) to wait for which
action(s) during the particular multi state.
->disconnect is called immediately before the TCP connection is shutdown.
->readwrite gets called during transfer to allow the protocol to do extra
->defport is the default report TCP or UDP port this protocol uses
->protocol is one or more bits in the `CURLPROTO_*` set. The SSL versions
have their "base" protocol set and then the SSL variation. Like
->flags is a bitmask with additional information about the protocol that will
make it get treated differently by the generic engine:
- `PROTOPT_SSL` - will make it connect and negotiate SSL
- `PROTOPT_DUAL` - this protocol uses two connections
- `PROTOPT_CLOSEACTION` - this protocol has actions to do before closing the
connection. This flag is no longer used by code, yet still set for a bunch
protocol handlers.
- `PROTOPT_DIRLOCK` - "direction lock". The SSH protocols set this bit to
limit which "direction" of socket actions that the main engine will
concern itself about.
- `PROTOPT_NONETWORK` - a protocol that doesn't use network (read file:)
- `PROTOPT_NEEDSPWD` - this protocol needs a password and will use a default
one unless one is provided
- `PROTOPT_NOURLQUERY` - this protocol can't handle a query part on the URL
## conncache
Is a hash table with connections for later re-use. Each Curl_easy has a
pointer to its connection cache. Each multi handle sets up a connection
cache that all added Curl_easys share by default.
## Curl_share
The libcurl share API allocates a `Curl_share` struct, exposed to the
external API as "CURLSH *".
The idea is that the struct can have a set of own versions of caches and
pools and then by providing this struct in the `CURLOPT_SHARE` option, those
specific Curl_easys will use the caches/pools that this share handle
Then individual Curl_easy structs can be made to share specific things
that they otherwise wouldn't, such as cookies.
The `Curl_share` struct can currently hold cookies, DNS cache and the SSL
session cache.
## CookieInfo
This is the main cookie struct. It holds all known cookies and related
information. Each Curl_easy has its own private CookieInfo even when
they are added to a multi handle. They can be made to share cookies by using
the share API.
[4]: "RFC 7230"