In the context of eCommerce, the term is used to describe a sales transaction notification from payment processors to the merchant's affiliate system site. More specifically, it is a web service written for an affiliate sales tracking software system for a third-party merchant system to send or "POST" the data to. The term "Postback" is used here to describe what the payment processor does with the transaction receipt, which is to "Post Back" to the merchant's affiliate program, notifying it of a successful transaction, so that it can then credit affiliates with their earnings.
In web development
Postbacks are commonly seen in edit forms, where the user introduces information in a form and hits "save" or "submit", causing a postback. The server then refreshes the same page using the information it has just received.
In ASP, a form and its POST action have to be created as two separate pages, resulting in the need for an intermediate page and a redirect if one simply wants to perform a postback. This problem was addressed in ASP.NET with the
__doPostBack() function and an application model that allows a page to perform validation and processing on its own form data.
In JSF, postbacks trigger the full JSF life-cycle, which just like ASP.NET performs conversion and validation of the form data that was included in the postback. Various utility methods are present in the JSF API to programmatically check if a given request is a postback or not.
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