Re: [apps-discuss] IETF technical plenary: the end of application protocols

Nico Williams <> Thu, 24 March 2011 20:25 UTC

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Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2011 15:26:41 -0500
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From: Nico Williams <>
To: Pete Resnick <>
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Cc: Scott Brim <>, Apps Discuss <>
Subject: Re: [apps-discuss] IETF technical plenary: the end of application protocols
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On Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 9:52 AM, Pete Resnick <> wrote:
> On 3/24/11 3:45 AM, Scott Brim wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 23:09, Peter Saint-Andre <> wrote:
>> Whatever the reason, most people don't want to run their
>> own services -- it's much easier to visit a website, and tell people
>> that you're "on", a popular email or IM or blogging or microblogging or
>> voice or video service than it is to install and maintain postfix or
>> Prosody or WordPress or laconica or Asterisk or Yate on the server side
>> plus Thunderbird or Pidgin or Jitsi (etc.) on the client side (let alone
>> the whole stack of OS and DNS and databases and registered domains and
>> certificates and all the rest).
> People do seem fully capable to grasp "Here is my phone number, you can
> reach me here" and do at least that particular kind of peer-to-peer
> communication. There is no reason that IM or email or blogging *have* to be
> a service; it's a remnant of being pre-disposed to client-server models
> (including, BTW, DNS).

"Here's my phone number, call me" is not really peer-to-peer.  "Here's
my address, drop by" is.  The former relies on quite a bit of
infrastructure (all the more so when the devices are mobile), but the
latter could work even without roads, streets, etcetera (though
addresses might have to be in the form of coordinates, but don't
forget that GPS is also infrastructure).  However, the phone system's
infrastructure is an afterthought to the user, as you demonstrate :)
The same is true of the Internet, but its engineers are aware of the
infrastructure, giving us a different viewpoint than the user's.

Looked at that way, what's so strange about NAT and SIP and XMPP?
Infrastructure mediated peer-to-peer...  seems perfectly natural to
me.  Is infrastructure really avoidable?  Without infrastructure we're
almost necessarily limited to peer-to-peer communications over a small
area: the range of voice, of available travel technologies, of our
peer-to-peer electromagnetic spectrum (further limited by device power
capacity).  Or is it the type of infrastructure that bothers some
people?  DNS is OK but "servers" are not??

I see complaints about the end of the end-to-end model implied by thin
clients.  But I don't think that's a forgone conclusion.  End-to-end
_security_ is the key at any rate (or maybe that's just me looking at
things from a security point of view, or maybe I've been conditioned
by HTTP to accept that the "network" does weird things, or...).

> I hope we can have a real discussion in Prague, without too much
> grandstanding.
> It's going to be difficult. I can say for myself that I've been pushing for
> a deeper discussion (and getting it in many places), but the "death of
> application protocols predicted" tone of the abstract was a bit of
> grandstanding itself, IMO. Not too conducive to rational conversation.

The Internet is as organic as it's not.  I see this as yet another
step in organic development.  Some guidance may be needed to find and
avert pitfalls before hitting them (again or for the first time), but
that's as far as we can go.