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Re: Backwards compatibility

From: Mark Watson <watsonm@netflix.com>
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2012 16:53:49 +0000
To: William Chan (陈智昌) <willchan@chromium.org>
CC: "<ietf-http-wg@w3.org>" <ietf-http-wg@w3.org>
Message-ID: <E75CDBDE-A13E-4E7E-BC38-9C8ADE43C09A@netflix.com>

On Mar 30, 2012, at 9:29 AM, William Chan (陈智昌) wrote:

On Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 6:13 PM, Mark Watson <watsonm@netflix.com<mailto:watsonm@netflix.com>> wrote:

I'd like to make a plea/request/suggestion that wherever possible new features be added incrementally to HTTP1.1, in a backwards compatible way, in preference to a "new protocol" approach. A "new protocol" is required only if it is not technically possible (or especially awkward) to add the feature in a backwards compatible way.

The object should be to enable incremental implementation and deployment on a feature by feature basis, rather than all-or-nothing. HTTP1.1 has been rather successful and there is an immense quantity of code and systems - including intermediaries of various sorts - that work well with HTTP1.1. It should be possible to add features to that code and those systems without forklifting substantial amounts of it. It is better if intermediaries that do not support the new features cause fallback to HTTP1.1 vs the alternative of just blocking the new protocol. In particular, it should not cost a round trip to fall back to HTTP1.1. It is often lamented that the Internet is now the "port-80 network", but at least it is that.

Don't forget port 443. And I agree, it should not cost a round trip to fallback to HTTP/1.1.

Many of the features contemplated as solutions to the problems of HTTP1.1 can be implemented this way: avoiding head-of-line blocking of responses just requires a request id that is dropped by intermediaries that don't support it and echoed on responses. Request and response header compression can be negotiated - again with a request flag that is just dropped by unsupporting intermediaries. Pipelined requests could be canceled with a new method. These things are responsible for most of the speed improvements of SPDY, I believe.

It's unclear to me how this would work. Are you suggesting waiting a HTTP request/response pair to figure out if the id gets echoed, before trying to multiplex requests? Or would you rely on HTTP pipelining as a fallback if the ids don't get echoed?

Send the requests (yes, pipelined). If they come back without ids, then they are coming back in the order they were sent. If they come back with ids, then that tells you which response is which.

The former incurs a large latency cost. The latter depends very much on how deployable you view pipelining on the overall internet.

It's certainly widely deployed in servers and non-transparent proxies. Non-supporting non-transparent proxies are easily detected. Yes, broken transparent proxies are a (small) problem, but you can also detect these.

I am skeptical it is sufficiently deployable and we on Chromium are gathering numbers to answer this question (http://crbug.com/110794).

Our internal figures suggest that more than 95% of users can successfully use pipelining. That's an average. On some ISPs the figure is much lower.

Also, pipelining is clearly inferior to multiplexing.

Yes, but perhaps in practice not by much. To render a page you need all the objects, so from a time-to-page-load perspective it makes no difference how you multiplex them, as long as the link remains fully utilized. To see some difference you need some notion of object importance and some metric for 'page loaded except for the unimportant bits'. You send the most important requests first. Even then it's not clear that multiplexing within objects will perform significantly better than object by object sending.

Interleaving within responses does require some kind of framing layer, but I'd like to learn why anything more complex than interleaving the existing chunked-transfer chunks is needed (this is also especially easy to undo).

Sorry, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by interleaving existing chunked-transfer chunks. Are these being interleaved across different responses (that requires framing, right?).

Interleaving data from multiple responses requires some kind of framing, yes. Chunked transfer encoding is a kind of framing that is already supported by HTTP. Allowing chunks to be associated with different responses would be a simple change. Maybe it feels like a hack ? That was my question: why isn't a small enhancement to the existing framing sufficient ?

Putting my question another way, what is the desired new feature that really *requires* that we break backwards compatibility with the extremely successful HTTP1.1 ?


See my question above

header compression,

Easily negotiated: an indicator in the first request indicates that the client supports it. If that indicator survives to the server, the server can start compressing response headers right away. If the client receives a compressed response it can start compressing future requests on that connection. It's important that this indicator be one which is dropped by intermediaries that don't support compression.


I think you mean "re-priortization". I can send requests in priority order - what I can't do is change that order to response to user actions. How big a deal is this, vs closing the connection and re-issuing outstanding requests in the new order ?



Received on Friday, 30 March 2012 16:54:20 UTC

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