HTTP lock-in

Khare (
Fri, 19 Dec 1997 18:42:49 +0530

Wired 6.01, Steve Scheinberg, "Schumpeter's Lesson" is about network
effects, and how IP's monopoly has really quashed competition at all layers
of the network stack: 1) it's all SONET, as WDM saved the day by muxing
light; 2) it's all ethernet, even up to GigEther, no ATM or other
fiddlefaddle; 3) it's all IP, no IPX, AppleTalk, etc; 4) It's all HTTP:

"There's one last network layer worth reviewing: application protocols. As
little as five years ago, there are FTP for file transfer, Gopher for
information exchange, NNTP for network news, and others. But the last five
years have seen the same kind of consolidation as we've seen elsewhere on
the Net. In this case, the spoils go to HTTP.

"HTTP won because the Web appelas to the largest possible number of users.
As the Web's popularity skyrocketed, coeporate firewalls -- intended to
keep dangerous traffic from entering -- were routeinely configures to admit
popular and relatively harmless [RK: 'mostly harmless'? :-] HTTP traffic.
Software developers saw this, and suddenly file transfers, audio, and even
Java were being handled by HTTP. It's become the Net's Esperanto, rendering
firewalls largely irrelevant in the process.

"Now in its ninth year [RK: huh?], HTTP isn't a great protocols [RK:
huh?!]. It certainly isn't innovative [RK: huh?!?!!]. But thanks to the
power of network effects, i's what we'll be living with for a long time to

IMO, he's right to identify firewall passthrough as an accidentaly but
critical lock-in effect. It's surely going to disappear, though, under the
onslaught of all these abuses. Firewall traversal (the IETF AFT group) is
going to become a matter of trust, not port numbers. Other than that, he's
right --except that HTTP is a brilliant example of innovating within the