PHPBuilder - Sessions With PHP4 Page 2

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Sessions With PHP4 - Page 2

by: Mattias Nilsson
July 30, 2000

So, What Does This Do For Me?

Legitimate question. There are too many ways to use session management and session variables to include them all here, but I'll give you an example. Say you're building a community site, like I've been doing, you might want to keep the name of the currently authenticated user and perhaps how many new messages he's got. In order to keep the load off the database you're using, you want to cache the number of messages. You could do this two ways;
  1. You could use three cookies:
    • authenticated_user - The currently authenticated username (or id)
    • num_messages - The number of messages he's got
    • expire_time - When to recache the number of messages
  2. Use sessions and register three session variables.
The first method limits security, someone can fake the cookies and virtually get access to another user's account. It's messy because of all the Header() calls you need to do, it's overall ugly, and you might get inconsistent data in case the user refuses to accept one of the cookies.
With sessions, the user only has to accept one cookie, you keep much better consistency in your data and you get a bit more security.


Session gives you freedom, flexibility and functionality that is assiciated with any good serverside scripting language. Though, PHP4 session has a few limitations; first off all, you cannot store objects in the sessions, which would have been absolutely fantastic, just imagine storing a complete user object in the session.. Second, storing data in session variables is not very efficient because PHP4 is using files to store session information, but overall I'm very satisfied with how PHP4 session management works.
Try it out - you'll like it.

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