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HTTP/1.0, 1.1 and Beyond, An Evolutionary Perspective on HTTP PowerPoint Presentation
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HTTP/1.0, 1.1 and Beyond, An Evolutionary Perspective on HTTP

HTTP/1.0, 1.1 and Beyond, An Evolutionary Perspective on HTTP

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HTTP/1.0, 1.1 and Beyond, An Evolutionary Perspective on HTTP

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  1. HTTP/1.0, 1.1 and Beyond,An Evolutionary Perspective on HTTP Henrik Frystyk Nielsen

  2. Purpose of this Talk • Why did HTTP end up the way it did? • What caused new features to be introduced? • Nobody could have predicted the path it took! • Kiss (Keep it simple, stupid!) principle is essential • What is HTTP, really? • The Basic HTTP Building Blocks • Bare Bone HTTP • In every big protocol there is a small waiting to get out • Common Comments and Questions about HTTP • On performance, state, complexity, extensibility HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  3. Once Upon a Time... • HTTP started out as a simple hypertext protocol • Send GET request - get back a document • Hypertext was what you asked for and what you got • There was no information about the documents you retrieved - was embedded in the document • This were the early days of HTTP/0.9 HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  4. Then came the <IMG …> hack • No more only text based documents • Needed type information to distinguish images from text • MIME provided a mechanism for describing protocol messages • Was adopted for describing HTTP messages • A major cross road on the evolutionary path • HTTP/1.0 was on its way HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  5. Then came Proxies and Gateways • First to get access to other systems like Gopher and WAIS • Bootstrap mechanism for accessing information • Then to traverse firewalls • Turned out to be better than mechanisms like SOCKS • And soon caching became popular based on last modified dates and heuristics • Proxies crucial piece of Web architecture • Allows for new levels of indirection HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  6. In the Mean Time... • People wanted faster renditions of their pages containing text, images and audio • Solution: Use multiple, parallel TCP connections • This actually makes a lot of sense • TCP sockets are easy to program • You get a lot of resources from the OS and the Net • It seems to be a lot faster! • One problem - impact on Net a disaster • Web applications were wasting huge amounts of resources. Servers did not do any real work HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  7. The More the Merrier • People wanted all their information in their browser • Use of POST to represent “strange ideas” • POST is not AUTOMATABLE! • Difference from Automated! • It is not a question of handling strange ideas! • It is a question of letting your computer handle strange ideas! • HTTP become a byte transport • Lack of interoperability HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  8. The Web was Commercialized • Vanity host names become popular • Everybody wants their own domain name ( • Due to a misoptimization, this could only be done using multiple IP addresses • Result is that many machines have multiple IP addresses • Examples of 100 or more IP addresses pr machine HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  9. …and Fueled by Advertisement • Main accounting mechanism was hit counts in the form of TCP connections • No trust in heuristic caching - bust it! • We loose revenue every time a cache serves a cached document HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  10. Result: The Internet was on its Knees • Several reports of busy links collapsing - no data got through • IP addresses were consumed at very high rate • But… I don’t think that HTTP would have the position it has today as the most used protocol if started with HTTP/1.1 HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  11. HTTP/1.1 - The Big Fire Fighter • Main purpose was to fix three problems • Provide a semantically well-defined caching model • Support vanity hostnames • Limiting waste of TCP connections • Criteria for solutions was that the end user would see a clear win • People need personal incentives to change • Implementors need clear market benefit to implement HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  12. Hmm, Looks Promising! • Success criteria was met • In our performance work, we could show that • HTTP/1.1 cuts down Round Trip Times by a lot • Cut down TCP overhead by a factor of three • Cut down time to transfer data by a factor of 2 • We can blast out PPP, LANs and WANs • Have not made explicit testing on wireless • Would urge people to help doing this HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  13. But How can We Extend it? • HTTP is not a centrally controlled protocol • Has maybe never been • It’s extended by everybody for any possible purpose • Clearly suffering from “HTTP is the hammer - everything is a nail” syndrome • No structured way of extending HTTP • Lack of type information • Using POST as a tunnel mechanism • Reducing HTTP to a byte transport • We need a more powerful framework! HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  14. HTTP - the Next Generation • HTTP-NG is generic application level protocol • A simple, extensible framework • Explicit Layering and modularization • Break up the big “lump” style HTTP message • Extensibility at the core • Lessons from our HTTP/PEP/Mandatory work • Can the Web be implemented using Distributed Object technology? HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  15. So What is HTTP anyway? • Let’s have a quick look at the model • It looks like MIME but isn’t quite • HTTP is a layered Protocol • Has Scope, Proxying and Caching • Has inherent fuzziness built in • Content negotiation and redirections • It looks like RPC but isn’t quite • Proxies are explicit in the interfaces • Has the notion of end-to-end and hop-by-hop scope • Interfaces are both vertical and horizontal • Headers separated from methods HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  16. Methods, Headers, and Status Codes • No explicit relationship between methods, header fields and status codes in an HTTP message. Relationship must be defined implicitly • Methods to be performed on the resource • A priori agreement of semantics. Can’t be extended dynamically • Headers carry information about the parties involved, the transaction, the message body or the resource • Unknown header fields must be ignored without affecting the outcome of the transaction • Status Codes are the results returned by the server • Status codes are somewhat easier to extend, as unknown status codes must be treated as the x00 code of that class. HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  17. Common Questions about HTTP • People often discard HTTP using inaccurate assumptions • Not a question of “HTTP all over” but a path for evolvability • Working our way towards a generic application level protocol framework • An important goal of HTTP-NG! HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  18. Why is HTTP/1.1 so big? • I have often heard: We only need a small subset, not the whole thing • What does it really take to be an HTTP application? Not a lot! • Most features defined by header fields have a request part and a response part. • The SHOULD and MUST requirements in which header field to support often comes in pairs: if you support a certain feature then you have to support all header fields associated with that feature. HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  19. HTTP is for HTTP URLs, right? • HTTP can handle arbitrary URIs - not only “http://…” • This is a consequence of Proxies and Gateways in the HTTP model • I don’t believe in Gateways • I want one information space with a consistent set of services • URI space is getting more complex • New URI schemes on a daily basis • A serious problem for interoperability HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  20. I can’t use HTTP - I need state! • HTTP is inherently a stateless protocol • Request-response pairs are independent but not necessarily idempotent. • POST, as well as sequences of PUT and DELETE, changes state • State can be built on top of HTTP • Often sufficient to add a simple header field or a parameter on an existing one • Cookies is state at a higher level • Involves the end-user and hence concerns about privacy etc. HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  21. HTTP is for TCP Only! • There is (almost) nothing that binds HTTP to TCP • HTTP is known to run on top of non-TCP networks • Often said that UDP is faster than TCP • Pipelining changes this dramatically: requests and responses take fragments of TCP packets • UDP Support should be done by layering • Many examples of MIME based protocols supporting UDP at the application level • Doesn’t make sense! HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  22. HTTP can’t handle Streamed Data • There is a difference between Controlling and Transmitting • HTTP is not a real time protocol • But can be used to control audio/video streams • Essentially as a remote control protocol HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  23. HTTP is too Slow! • Well, performance is relative • HTTP is not a fast protocol - but there are not very many fast protocols around • POP is really bad with respect to round trips (RTT). • CORBA is really bad with respect to bytes and RTTs • On wireless, RTT is the factor that kills you • HTTP/1.1 is fairly good at avoiding RTT delays HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective

  24. More Information on the Web • HTTP-NG Project • HTTP-NG Activity • HTTP-NG Working Groups (W3C Members only) • HTTP/1.x Overview • W3C Member Site • W3C HTTP - an Evolutionary Perspective