We are able to reliably recreate the following scenario:
- Create a small HTML page that makes AJAX requests to a server (using HTTP POST)
- Disconnect from the network and reconnect
- Monitor the packets that IE generates after the failure
After a failed network connection, IE makes the next AJAX request but only sends the HTTP header (not the body) when doing the HTTP post. This causes all sorts of problems on the server as it is only a partial request. Google this issue with Bing and you'll find lots of people complaining about "random server errors" using AJAX or unexplained AJAX failures.
We know that IE (unlike most other browsers) always sends an HTTP POST as TWO TCP/IP packets. The header and body is sent separately. In the case directly after a failure, IE only sends the header.
So my question is - why does it behave this way? It seems wrong based on the HTTP spec and other browsers don't behave this way. Is it simply a bug? Surely this creates havoc in any serious AJAX based Web application.
There is a similar problem, triggered by HTTP keep-alive timeouts that are shorter than 1 minute and is documented here:
Here are the before and after failure packet captures:
Notice how the HTTP Header and Payload is sent http://img827.imageshack.us/i/beforee.png/
After a failure, notice how only the Header is sent. IE never sends the payload and the server eventually responds with a Timeout. http://img203.imageshack.us/i/retryt.png/
There does not seem to be a clear answer to this question, so I will provide my empirical data as a substitute and provide some ways to work around it. Maybe some MS insider will one day shed some light on this...
If HTTP Keep-Alive is disabled on the server, this issue goes away. In other words, your HTTP 1.1 server server will respond to every Ajax request with a
Connection: Closeline in the response. This keeps IE happy but causes every Ajax request to open a new connection. This can have a significant performance impact, especially on high latency networks.
The issue is triggered easily if Ajax requests are made in rapid succession. For example, we make Ajax requests every 100ms and then the network status changes, the error is easy to reproduce. Although most applications probably do not make such requests, you might well have a couple of server calls happening right after each other which could lead to this problem. Less chatty keeps IE happy.
It happens even without NTLM authentication.
It happens when your HTTP keep-alive timeout on the server is shorter than the default (which defaults to 60 seconds on Windows). Details provided in link in question.
It does not happen with Chrome or Firefox. FF sends one packet so seems to avoid this issue altogether.
It happens in IE 6, 7, 8. Could not reproduce with IE 9 beta.