A VERY LONG time ago—in 1989—Ronald Reagan was
president, albeit only for the final 19½ days of his term.
And before the year was over Taylor Swift had been born,
and Andrei Sakharov and Samuel Beckett had died.
In the long run, the most memorable event of 1989
will probably be that Tim Berners-Lee hacked up the
HTTP protocol and named the result the “World Wide
Web.” (One remarkable property of this name is that
the abbreviation “WWW” has three times as many
syllables and takes longer to pronounce.)
Berners-Lee’s HTTP protocol ran on 10Mbit/s
Ethernet, and coax cables, and his computer was a
NeXT Cube with a 25MHz clock frequency. Some 26
years later, my laptop CPU is 100 times faster and has
1,000 times as much RAM as Berners-Lee’s machine
had, but the HTTP protocol is still the same.
A few weeks ago, the Internet Engineering Steering
Group (IESG) asked for “Last Call” comments on new
“HTTP/2.0” protocol ( https://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-ietf-
httpbis-http2) before blessing it as a “Proposed Standard.”
Some will expect a major update to
the world’s most popular protocol to be
a technical masterpiece and textbook
example for future students of protocol
design. Some will expect that a protocol
designed during the Snowden revela-
tions will improve their privacy. Others
will more cynically suspect the opposite.
There may be a general assumption of
“faster.” Many will probably also assume
it is “greener.” And some of us are jad-
ed enough to see the “ 2.0” and mutter:
“Uh-oh, Second Systems Syndrome.”
If that sounds underwhelming, it’s
because it is.
HTTP/2.0 is not a technical masterpiece. It has layering violations,
The IETF Is
Phoning It In
Article development led by
Bad protocol, bad politics.
BY POUL-HENNING KAMP