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RE: Digest Headers and Structured Fields

From: Justin Richer <jricher@mit.edu>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2022 11:07:57 +0000
To: Lucas Pardue <lucaspardue.24.7@gmail.com>, HTTP Working Group <ietf-http-wg@w3.org>
CC: Roberto Polli <robipolli@gmail.com>
Message-ID: <875c916670c445ca99314db186653401@oc11expo18.exchange.mit.edu>
Lucas, thanks for pulling together this thorough explanation and starting this discussion. 

I have a strong preference for option 2. I believe that this option walks the best line between backwards compatibility and new implementation using current tools. The new header names make it clearer what the target is, and will help developers understand the differences between them. Updating and aligning the semantics of the old Digest field allow it to still function and make sense against today's HTTP definitions, but without breaking existing compliant implementations. 

Which brings me to another aspect of what I like about 2: I would guess, based on my own experiences with implementing 3230, that a lot of implementations in the wild don't really do 3230 properly anyway. I know that when I started to pay attention to this updated draft, I learned that what I was doing was technically wrong in several ways, but that I didn't hit any of the cases that would trigger my bugs. The new proposed field definitions would have made it much clearer to me during implementation that I had things mixed up, and the SF format would have caught a double encoding mistake I made in one place, too. Yes, my implementations were a mess, as it turns out, but I honestly believe that the changes in 2 especially would have helped make sense of everything. 

I also realize that this is the most work of the 3 options, and I once again want to thank the editors for bringing all of this forward. 

From: Lucas Pardue [lucaspardue.24.7@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, January 21, 2022 10:18 AM
To: HTTP Working Group
Cc: Roberto Polli
Subject: Digest Headers and Structured Fields

Hi folks,

You might recall that the Digest Headers draft WGLC concluded in December. We had some feed that we’ve been digesting (pun intended) and wanted to bring some of our ideas on next steps back to the WG for input. There’s a few options here and we’d appreciate feedback so that we can whittle them down. Apologies for the wall of text, it's intended to bootstrap discussion

The crux of the issue is that this draft relates to updating the Digest and Want-Digest HTTP fields. These use a “custom” list format based on the #rule ABNF extension [1]. This is more-or-less unchanged in the draft. List items are of the form “key=value”. This format is very similar to Structured Fields (SF) Dictionary but not exactly the same. It supports a set of characters that do not match SF’s set , and it allows for duplicate entries in the list (handling of duplicate entries is a bit under-defined, we’ll come on to that). In 2021 we added the Content-Digest and Want-Content-Digest headers. These use the same format as Digest and Want-Digest for consistency.

A few people have expressed that they’d really like to find a way for Digest headers to work with SF. That seems to be the direction of travel for new HTTP fields. Digest synergizes with another WG item - Signature, and it’s unfortunate that there’s a bit of friction between the two due to formats. But we’re also updating an old draft and need to be mindful of existing deployments that use Digest. The catalyst for starting the Digest work was to replace “Instance” with “Representation” and other modern HTTP semantic terms so that implementers had a clearer understanding how to use Digest as intended.

We’ve been noodling on things in the background and think we have 3 candidate options for consideration.

* Option 1: Status Quo. The I-D continues to update RFC 3230 terms, and has a light touch on Digest. New Content-Digest uses legacy list format. This addresses the initial goal and accommodates the simpler content use case that came up during standardization.

* Option 2: “Three headers”. Update RFC 3230 terms and light touch on Digest. New Representation-Digest and Content-Digest headers use an SF Dictionary format. Digest and Representation-Digest act similarly but use different wire formats and have different parsing rules around duplicates; new headers are RECOMMENDED over old. See the proposal PR at https://github.com/httpwg/http-extensions/pull/1893; diff at https://www.ietf.org/rfcdiff?url1=https://httpwg.github.io/http-extensions/draft-ietf-httpbis-digest-headers.txt&url2=https://httpwg.github.io/http-extensions/structured-digest2-and-content-digest/draft-ietf-httpbis-digest-headers.txt

* Option 3: “Two headers”. Leave RFC 3230 alone. New Representation-Digest and Content-Digest headers use an SF Dictionary format. Digest and Representation-Digest act similarly but use different wire formats and have different parsing rules around duplicates; new headers are RECOMMENDED over old. See the proposal PR at https://github.com/httpwg/http-extensions/pull/1894; diff at https://www.ietf.org/rfcdiff?url1=https://httpwg.github.io/http-extensions/draft-ietf-httpbis-digest-headers.txt&url2=https://httpwg.github.io/http-extensions/structured-digest2-and-content-digest-no-rfc3230/draft-ietf-httpbis-digest-headers.txt

Note that we have omitted Want-Digest from this email for brevity. A complete comparative table of the proposals is available on a Google doc[2].

Note that the proposal PRs are a bit rough. They are more there to give a shape of what the differences would look like. We can probably wordsmith them, and bikeshed on whether to use sf-dictionary or sf-list and so on. But the important thing is to agree on what to do first. So feedback is appreciated.

Lucas & Roberto
Digest editors

[1] https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/html/draft-ietf-httpbis-semantics-19#section-5.6.1
[2] https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wC2E42dCSrmh3nDnUL-rItzvr09kFcltBs_jWvJPfjI
Received on Saturday, 22 January 2022 11:08:14 UTC

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