Ajax and Java Servlet

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I was working on an old Java web application today. This java web app used to pass data by using URL parameter, and I wanted to change it to passing data by using AJAX with JSON object, since there will be more data being passed in the future.

After working a while I realized I need to write this post becasue:

  1. Pure JSP/Servlet java app is a little bit different from Spring MVC Java web app

  2. I'm digging into Spring MVS so much that it's a little bit tough to change back to old way :)

So, if you have a JSP/Servlet Java web app and you want to use AJAX with JSON object, you have to write code in three places:

1. JSP with jQuery

You want to have jQuery library in your JSP file to make sure you can use AJAX.

        type: "POST",
        url: 'your <url-pattern> in web.xml'
        data: JSON.stringify(json_object),
        contentType: 'application/json',
        dataType: 'json',
        //mimeType: 'application/json'
        success: function(data){
            //Process your data that is being passed back...
        error: function(jqXHR, textStatus, errorThrown ){
            //Deal with error occation
//New Version:
        type: "POST",
        url: 'your <url-pattern> in web.xml'
        data: JSON.stringify(json_object),
        contentType: 'application/json',
        dataType: 'json'
            //Process your data that is being passed back...
            //Deal with error occation
            //Same as 'complete' in old version, operate after done/fail
//You can also use $.post(url, data, success, dataType) as a new way

In the code above, contentType and dataType (and mimeType if exists) is very important because wrong value of these attributes can give you a 404 or 500 error.


Default value: application/x-www-form-urlencoded; charset=UTF-8

This is the data type when you send data to server.


Default value: Guess(xml, json, script, html)

This is the data type when server pass data back to you.


A mime type to override the XHR mime type. This is the data type when server pass data back to you.

Form Mozilla, MIME types describe the media type of content either in email or served by web servers or web applications.

MIME types are intended to help guide a web browser in how the content is to be processed and displayed. Examples of MIME types are:

  • text/html for normal web pages
  • text/plain for plain text
  • application/octet-stream meaning "download this file"
  • application/x-java-applet for Java™ applets
  • application/pdf for Adobe® PDF documents.

So if you want you browser to access data like xml, json, script or html, dataType is good enough. However, if you want to let your browser detect PDF file or other data types, you need to set mimeType.

2. web.xml

After working with Spring MVC for a while, I realizae I can forget web.xml easily. Make sure you register your servlet in web.xml.

You need to regiseter your servlet in web.xml file in your project. Example:

    <!-- Give a servlet name for using in web.xml -->
    <!-- This is the class of your servlet -->
    <!-- Same servlet name as above -->
    <!-- This is the url you want to put as url -->

3. Servlet

If you pass JSON object to your servlet, you may want to use org.json, com.fasterxml.jackson or gson external library to help you dealing with JSON object in Java.

Example code for post operation:

//You want your class extends HttpServlet
public class ProctorProcessServlet extends HttpServlet{
    protected void doPost(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response){
            String json = "";
            BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(request.getInputStream()));
            if(br != null){
                json = br.readLine(); //json should be the string of your JSON object
                //Process your JSON object
            //Assume you want to pass JSON object back
            PrintWriter out = response.getWriter();
            JSONObject sample = new JSONObject();
            //Process sample
             //Now you finish your post operation and come back to JSP
        catch(Exception e){

This post will be udpated when I learned more about AJAX in my work experience.


org.apache.catalina.LifecycleException: Failed to start component

If you include org.json jar file in your project, and you encourter org.apache.catalina.LifecycleException: Failed to start component exception when you try to deploy to Tomcat:

Make sure you add your jar files to Web Deployment Assebly in your project properies. Following this post and you will be fine.

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