How to serve Pages depending on Time


When tricks like time-dependent content should happen a many webmasters still use CGI scripts which do for instance redirects to specialized pages. How can it be done via Apaches mod_rewrite

Ruleset Processing

When mod_rewrite is triggered, it reads the configured rulesets from its configuration structure (which itself was either created on startup for per-server context or during the directory walk of the Apache kernel for per-directory context). Then the URL rewriting engine is started with the contained ruleset (one or more rules together with their conditions). The operation of the URL rewriting engine itself is exactly the same for both configuration contexts. Only the final result processing is different.

The order of rules in the ruleset is important because the rewriting engine processes them in a special (and not very obvious) order. The rule is this: The rewriting engine loops through the ruleset rule by rule (RewriteRule directives) and when a particular rule matches it optionally loops through existing corresponding conditions (RewriteCond directives). For historical reasons the conditions are given first, and so the control flow is a little bit long-winded.

The control flow through the rewriting ruleset

As you can see, first the URL is matched against the Pattern of each rule. When it fails mod_rewrite immediately stops processing this rule and continues with the next rule. If the Pattern matches, mod_rewrite looks for corresponding rule conditions. If none are present, it just substitutes the URL with a new value which is constructed from the string Substitution and goes on with its rule-looping. But if conditions exist, it starts an inner loop for processing them in the order that they are listed. For conditions the logic is different: we don't match a pattern against the current URL. Instead we first create a string TestString by expanding variables, back-references, map lookups, etc. and then we try to match CondPattern against it. If the pattern doesn't match, the complete set of conditions and the corresponding rule fails. If the pattern matches, then the next condition is processed until no more conditions are available. If all conditions match, processing is continued with the substitution of the URL with Substitution.

Time-Dependent Rewriting

There are a lot of variables named TIME_xxx for rewrite conditions.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{TIME_HOUR}%{TIME_MIN} >0700
RewriteCond %{TIME_HOUR}%{TIME_MIN} <1900
RewriteRule ^
index\.php$ day.html
RewriteRule ^
index\.php$ night.html

This provides the content of day.html under the URL index.php from 07:00-19:00 and at the remaining time the contents of night.html.