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Re: HTTP in JSON Binary Encoding / Data Model

From: James M Snell <jasnell@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 29 May 2013 09:44:40 -0700
Message-ID: <CABP7Rbesg729wNixRQHrR3goD56DmcQ=bWm6OOvkdLeLE4fK_Q@mail.gmail.com>
To: Phillip Hallam-Baker <hallam@gmail.com>
Cc: "ietf-http-wg@w3.org Group" <ietf-http-wg@w3.org>
I understand what you're getting at and understand the motivations
behind it. A few comments however...

1. Having a clear separation between Protocol and Application
Semantics is a Good Thing.

2. By adopting the "Typed Header Codecs" I have proposed, it would be
possible to use raw binary values in headers that specifically allow
for it, which would make it possible to use the proposed "binary json"
type encoding directly without further protocol modifications and
without sacrificing backwards compatibility or requiring additional,
undue complexity.

3. While I'm sure there is room for improvement in the typed header
codecs I've proposed, we have already had a number of conversations on
the list about data model requirements for http headers. In my
interpretation (for what it's worth), there was consensus around only
requiring strings, integers, dates and raw binary as data types, with
a clear backwards-compatibility story for http/1 and no need for
anything as expressive as JSON at the protocol level.

- James

On Wed, May 29, 2013 at 9:31 AM, Phillip Hallam-Baker <hallam@gmail.com> wrote:
> Sorry for throwing this in at the last minute. But I think there are
> advantages to this scheme that make it likely that people will tread this
> path in the future regardless of what decision the WG comes to on HTTP
> encoding. I did consult with Mark Nottingham before throwing this in here.
>
>
> The idea that prompted this proposal was Hoffman and Bormann's CBOR proposal
> which defines a subset that provides a binary encoding of JSON. It seemed to
> me that many of the ideas raised in the HTTP encoding debate would be
> relevant to binary JSON. I also realized that to be useful in a Web Services
> context, any scheme would need something like the HTTP chunked transport
> encoding.
>
> The primary value of a binary encoding for JSON would be that it avoids the
> need to base64 encode binary blobs, a problem that gets a lot worse when
> nested binary structures are involved and the 33% overhead per pass rises
> exponentially.
>
>
> So imagine for the sake of argument we have an encoding for JSON that:
>
> * Is easy to convert existing JSON parsers/emitters to read/write
> * Is as compact as the JSON specification and with the same data model
> * Supports compression of strings to tag codes
> * Supports binary blobs of data
> * Supports chunked encoding of binary data and strings
>
>
> Such an encoding would have obvious advantage in Web Services applications
> that deal with large chunks of binary data. Instead of having to switch
> encodings or pass binary data as links, all the data can be managed in one
> framework.
>
> Now imagine that the Web Service could use the same encoding for the HTTP
> framing layer and the application layer. Instead of needing separate HTTP
> and application stacks, it is now easy to combine both in to a single
> scheme. This is the part of the ASN.1 vision that was brilliant. It was the
> implementation of ASN.1 that sucked.
>
> In this model HTTP headers would become JSON tags. Since JSON tags are
> simply strings, a mechanism that allowed codes to be substituted for strings
> would allow compression of both.
>
>
> Proposing a scheme that meets these requirements is not difficult and I
> propose to have one sometime next week. There are many other existing
> proposals including BJSON which is heavily used in MongoDB. And there is a
> whole set of arguments around the limitations that JSON imposes because it
> is not possible to convert between binary and decimal representations of
> floating point numbers without loss of precision which is a show stopper for
> scientific applications.
>
> For the sake of this argument assume that such an encoding can be devised
> that offers comparable space/time efficiency to other encoding proposals.
>
>
> This approach would be a huge win for Web Services. It would also provide an
> easy and consistent way to represent HTTP headers in JavaScript and other
> scripting languages so there are advantages to the browser side as well.
>
> The main problem is the time factor. Now is not the time to restart the
> coding discussion from scratch. But that is not the only area that this
> proposal would affect. The much bigger impact would be on the data model
> used to describe HTTP headers. If the group chooses a data model for HTTP
> headers that is aligned with the JavaScript data model and so has a
> convenient conversion into and out of JSON, it will be possible to adopt a
> binary encoding of JSON in Web Services applications at a later date.
>
>
> --
> Website: http://hallambaker.com/
Received on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 16:45:28 UTC

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