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Version: 2020fa

Lecture 1

Lecture Video

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Assignment 1 due 10/2 11:59pm

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Introduction to HTTP Methods

When you want to visit a website in your browser, you send a request to the server asking for information. These requests have different types including POST, GET, PUT, PATCH, and DELETE. We'll primarily be concerning ourselves POST and GET. Here are MDN's definitions:

  • GET - The GET method requests a representation of the specified resource. Requests using GET should only retrieve data.
  • POST - The POST method is used to submit an entity to the specified resource, often causing a change in state or side effects on the server.

You can see more details as well as the rest of the methods at the official site.

What is Node?

Node.js® is a JavaScript runtime built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine. Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient.

That didn't answer my question.

Node is a program that will interpret your Javascript and is commonly used for web servers.

Node serves as a way to unify the frontend and the backend in one language/framework. On the frontend we have many JavaScript libraries like React, Angular, Vue and on the backend we have Express, Koa, Happi.

Responding to Requests

One of the first tasks when building a website is responding to the requests that come from the browser. In this lecture, we will be building a basic Node app using Express to interpret requests and respond to them.

Route definition takes the following structure:


Where: app is an instance of express. METHOD is an HTTP request method, in lowercase. PATH is a path on the server. HANDLER is the function executed when the route is matched. The following code sends “hello world” as a result of a GET request to ‘/' endpoint.

const express = require('express');
const app = express();

// respond with "hello world" when a GET request is made to the homepage
app.get('/', function (req, res) {
res.send('hello world');

Custom URLs

We can respond differently for requests to different URLs. For example, if we wanted ‘/home' to respond with “Welcome Home!” we could add a second route.

app.get('/home', function (req, res) {
res.send('Welcome Home!');

Both of these blocks of code respond to GET requests, because we are using Express's app.get() function. We tell express what route we want to trigger the response and give it a function that should be run to respond.

POST methods

POST method is generally used to submit data to an endpoint.

The following uses Express's method to send a POST request to ‘/' and responds with ‘Got a POST request'. Notice that has a second argument that is a function with two parameters, req and res. Usually, when you call POST you want to send data with the request. You would send that data as the req parameter.'/', function (req, res) {
res.send('Got a POST request');

Regular Expressions

You can match patterns in text rather than specific characters. For example, what if you want to return the same page for all URLs of /users/[SOME NUMBER]? We can use regular expressions so that the route will be used for any value. We can use the route string /users/\d+ to match any number. Regular expressions are outside the scope of this class, but you may find more information in the references below.

Parameterized Routes

Take a look at this route, paying special attention to the : characters. Those denote parameters in the route.

app.get('/users/:userId/books/:bookId', function (req, res) {

For example, if you navigate to the page /users/34/books/12973, you would now be able to use those IDs in your code. req.params.userId would now equal 34 and req.params.bookId would now equal 12973. This allows you to respond differently depending on IDs passed to you by the front end.

In the following code snippet we use app.get() to query a messages endpoint and we want to get a specific message. We call this query parameter messageId and can use it in the function we pass to app.get() to return that message.

const messages = {...}
app.get('/messages/:messageId', (req, res) => {
return res.send(messages[req.params.messageId]);


Don't know where to start? Check out Express's official getting started page. The rest of the pages have great content and will help you along your journey.

For a more in-depth exploration of this topic, check out this tutorial.

This is a useful tool to test your Express regular expressions to make sure that the routes match what you expect.

For an interactive way to learn regular expressions, consider this site.

Coding Demo

We demoed how to set up a yarn project and create some basic getter HTTP routes.

Set up a yarn project by running yarn init. It will ask you a few questions and you can press return to accept all the defaults:

yarn init v1.22.5
question name (lec1code):
question version (1.0.0):
question description:
question entry point (index.js):
question repository url:
question author:
question license (MIT):
question private:
success Saved package.json
✨ Done in 37.88s.

You can also use yarn init -y to set up a project with all the default values!

This will generate a package.json file with all the inputs you provided.

We also want to add several dependencies starting with express. Add express with yarn add express. Since we are also using TypeScript we want to install the typescript and ts-node packages as well using yarn add typescript ts-node. Finally to get some nice autocompletion features, we want to install @types/node and @types/express as devDependencies using yarn add -D @types/node @types/express.

Your package.json should now look like the following:

"name": "lec1code",
"version": "1.0.0",
"main": "index.js",
"license": "MIT",
"dependencies": {
"express": "^4.17.1",
"ts-node": "^9.0.0",
"typescript": "^4.0.3"
"devDependencies": {
"@types/express": "^4.17.8",
"@types/node": "^14.11.2"

Now we can define some basic express routes in a file index.ts:

import * as express from 'express';

const app = express();

app.get('/home', function (req, res) {
res.send('Welcome home!');

// example using path parameters
app.get('/users/:name/:lname', function (req, res) {
res.send('Hello ' + + ' ' + req.params.lname);

// example using query parameters
app.get('/users', function (req, res) {
res.send('Hello ' + + ' ' + req.query.lname);

// tell express to listen for requests on port 8080
app.listen(8080, function () {
console.log('server started');

Add the following to your package.json:

// other package.json properties...
"scripts": {
"start": "ts-node index.ts"

This will allow you to run ts-node without having it installed globally (which is bad practice). Now you can run the app with yarn start.

Now when you go to localhost:8080/home you should see Welcome home!. At localhost:8080/users/<your_name>/<your_last_name> or localhost:8080/users/?name=<your_name>&lname=<your_last_name> you should see Hello <your_name> <your_last_name>.