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Frameworks that start sessions for every visitor make me sad

I might have played the devil’s advocate when Lars was hating on frameworks at the barcamp last weekend, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see his point. The latest in a series of frustrations with frameworks kept me up until 3am last night. What better way to cap it off than complaining on the internet?

Today’s subject is anonymous sessions. Frameworks (and developers) love them because they are simple and convenient, but it comes at a cost. Keeping track of sessions for every visitor on a high traffic site is far too expensive to be practical. Developers should know how to work around this, but their frameworks need to support them.

The first framework on my mind is Drupal. I filed an issue last year that Drupal should support disabling anonymous sessions. It’s still unassigned so I’m guessing it’s not a high priority, but it was one of the main things that made me choose not to use Drupal on mozilla.com. I wrote some ideas on how to handle it and got some responses from people suffering the same fate. No word on any progress though.

The second framework, CakePHP, has an AUTO_SESSION variable that, just like $cacheQueries, is far to easy to misplace faith in.

By setting AUTO_SESSION to false, you can’t read or write to the session. Working as advertised? Not so much. If you take a closer look at what’s actually happening you’ll see that the session is still getting started, it’s just that CakePHP is blocking your access to it. Even with AUTO_SESSION off, a cookie with a unique ID is set, and a row is still inserted into the sessions table. That last part almost brought down AMO last night. I wrote a patch that disables anonymous sessions for real, but anyone that has talked to me about patching core code knows I don’t like to do it.

When you’re writing code, framework or not, don’t forget about scalability.

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