W3C Architecture Domain HTTP NG

Summary of Briefing Package for HTTP-NG Project

NOTE This is a summary of the HTTP-NG Briefing Package which is available in full for all W3C Members. Please also see the overview materials related to the W3C HTTP area, one of the activities of the W3C Architecture domain.

This briefing package proposes a new W3C Project on the future of HTTP, herein called the HTTP-NG Project. HTTP began as a generic request-response protocol, designed to accommodate a variety of applications ranging from document exchange and management to searching and forms processing. As HTTP has developed, though, the request for extensions and new features has exploded; such extensions range from caching, distributed authoring and content negotiation to various remote procedure call mechanisms. By not having a modularized architecture, the price of new features has been an overly complex and incomprehensible protocol with the following drawbacks:

Even though HTTP/1.1 provides a number of interesting features it does not provide a clean framework for defining their interaction. This has resulted in the large and complex HTTP specification.
Poor extensibility
Acknowledging a large number of proposed extensions as part of the core protocol has stretched HTTP/1.1. The interactions between the extensions are complex at best, often unspecified or even broken.
Lack of generality
Many applications and services are being deployed on the web that are not, in fact, retrieval of documents. Some applications are tunnelled through HTTP but would be more appropriately deployed as applications of a distributed object systems.
Poor scalability
At the time it was designed, the HTTP/1.0 protocol still represented a very low fraction of today's Internet traffic. Caching and connection management has improved HTTP/1.1 but recent measurements show that the protocol overhead can still be much improved in terms of CPU and network efficiency.

With the upcoming finalization of the HTTP/1.1 specification within IETF, we believe that the time has come to take a leap forward to the next generation of HTTP by reengineering the basic protocol architecture. The purpose of the HTTP-NG Project is to tackle the current deficiencies by using sound engineering practices: modularity, simplicity and layering. The task of the Project is to design, implement, and test a new architecture for the HTTP protocol based on a simple, extensible distributed object-oriented model.

Henrik Frystyk Nielsen,
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