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InfoQ Homepage News HTTP 1.2 Released with Improved Support for Hierarchies and Text-Menu Interfaces

HTTP 1.2 Released with Improved Support for Hierarchies and Text-Menu Interfaces

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The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) got its first major update since 1999, which includes improved support for Hierarchies, Text-Menu Interfaces and Authentication. It also includes a new set of accepted headers and extension mechanisms.

HTTP has been in use since 1990 and its first version, referred to as HTTP/0.9, was a simple protocol for raw data transfer across the Internet. HTTP/1.0, as defined by RFC 1945 , improved the protocol by allowing messages to be in the format of MIME-like messages, containing meta information about the data transferred and modifiers on the request/response semantics. However, HTTP/1.0 did not take into account the effects of hierarchical proxies, caching, the need for persistent connections, or virtual hosts. Version 1.1 which followed with RFC 2616 addressed the above issues, but being in service sine 1999 it had started to show signs of its age.

With the new 1.2 version, HTTP gets a much stronger support for resource hierarchies and gets better support for text menu interfaces, which are well-suited to computing environments like mobile clients. As part of its design goals, HTTP 1.2 functions and appears much like a mountable read-only global network file system. A system supporting this latest version, consists of a series of hierarchical hyperlinkable menus. The choice of menu items and titles is controlled by the administrator of the server.



Some of these new features had been part of the Gopher protocol, which was strongly oriented towards menu-document design and was a predecessor of the WWW.

Other improvements include:

  • Improved DNS Usage: HTTP 1.2 utilizes SRV records in order to facilitate better load balancing, and the use of just domains for both the web as well as e-mail.
  • Improved Authentication: Both Basic and Digest access authentication are improved to provide a better native-looking browser-based experience than form-based authentication.
  • The spec has been updated with a new set of accepted headers - and in a break with past tradition, any header not in the list of accepted headers is to be rejected by a compliant server.
  • New accepted headers can be added through the IETF website, which charges a nominal fee to cover administrative costs.

HTTP1.2 includes more stringent requirements than HTTP/1.1 in order to ensure reliable implementation of its features.

Richard Astley, Principal engineer for IETF has commented on this new development:

We firmly believe that new HTTP version has managed to keep good backwards compatibility with version 1.1, while successfully attacking the challenges of today’s WWW. We've come to the conclusion that this spec will make life easier for everyone: users, developers and implementers.

You can find more information about HTTP 1.2 on the IETF site.

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