Re: MailDAV

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From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Wed Mar 15 2000 - 14:33:37 PST

Hell, yes. :-) I'd go one further: not only is it not necessary for every mime
type / application set to have its own protocol, I firmly have come to believe
--- in part because of what I saw going on in the IETF --- that a *minimalist*
HTTP, perhaps with just "GET," would be sufficient for anything. I used to
argue the "protocol per application domain point-of-view. Argued for protocols
that were *like* HTTP but *weren't* HTTP. I've come to believe I was entirely

With HTTP, you've got a generic request-response system --- i.e., message
passing. Message passing is provably sufficient for anything computable. But
wait, there's more! With "servers" on both ends, you can have callbacks, so you
can do asynchronous stuff. With XML and something like XML-RPC, you've got a
typed RPC mechanism and on-the-wire object format. You want objects? Fine,
build an interface repository and reflection on top of that. Need events,
building a peer-to-peer buddy list? Bidirectional HTTP operations on specified
interfaces, clients as HTTP microservers, and switchboard semantics implemented
as a Web application.

The point is, despite any religion and / or ulterior motives driving particular
IETF or other efforts, we've *got* the technology necessary to build open,
interoperable applications of arbitrary kinds. The standardization of things at
the *application* level should not --- and does not, except by the poor choices
of application developers --- necessitate having new protocols for everything.

The punchline to all of this is, I actually think DAV is rather an abortion.
Ick. The more crap like that we cram into our star protocol, the less tenable
it becomes.

This kind of stuff should live above the wire, indeed, above HTTP. If all
distributed systems can be implemented in terms of RPC, and HTTP provides a
*standard* and rather friendly RPC just with GET, and XML provides the
marshalling format, then why re-invent the wheel? It's purely an ego and
competitive game. The only good argument --- performance, etc. --- isn't too
convincing to me these days. Simplicity and speed of implementation trumps.


Jim Whitehead wrote:

> Hi Ernie,
> > He mentioned how Microsoft was using WebDAV as an alternative to POP/IMAP.
> Yep, just sniff the packets between Outlook Express 5 and Hotmail.
> We've finally come full circle. In 1968, Doug Engelbart demoed the NLS
> system at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco. NLS provided
> email, outline processing, document editing, and the ability to hyperlink
> between them. Email and documents were treated in almost identical ways.
> In NLS it was not, go to the email program for email, go to the documents
> program for documents. It was a fully integrated environment. Now,
> finally, by using the same protocol to access email and documents, we're
> starting to move back towards a more holistic view of information
> processing. Theoretically it didn't require a new protocol, but since POP
> and IMAP have led to programs specifically for email, it was helpful to
> introduce a new protocol that really blurs the distinction between email and
> all other documents.
> The same is true for Calendar data. I can see very little benefit to
> defining a specific protocol just for use with calendar data, such as the
> current Calendar Access Protocol (CAP) effort. Every new MIME type does not
> need a new protocol. It makes sense to have hypertext links between
> calendars, and email, and Web pages, and spreadsheets, etc., and using a
> single protocol to access and author all of these makes this more clear.
> You could have a separate protocol for each MIME type, but what's the point?
> Unless there is a compelling advantage, it is just a huge duplication of
> effort.
> > We thought it
> > would be really cool to document some standard way of structuring mail
> > messages as WebDAV properties, so everyone could do this. And we could
> > maybe even get Microsoft involved, too.
> I would be very interested in seeing a standard developed here.
> >
> > Do you know of anyone who'd be interested in coordinating something like
> > this?
> Not off the top of my head. Undoubtedly Microsoft would want to get
> involved to ensure the final design was close to what they have shipped.
> Probably the best thing to do would be to form a mailing list, hold one or
> two face to face meetings, and then organize a BOF session at an upcoming
> IETF meeting.
> Such a BOF meeting would unleash a firestorm. There is very strong
> sentiment in the IETF for having specific protocols for accessing mail
> stores. POP and IMAP have strong followers, and there are many in the IETF
> who feel that each domain should have a separate protocol, that one size
> does not fit all. Still, I think it is a path worth taking.
> - Jim

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