HTTP and HTML: Obsolete or Timeless?

By Deane Barker on December 22, 2004

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I got to thinking today about the major protocol and language that drive the Web — HTTP and HTML — and I reflected on the fact that this pair is essentially frozen in time.

There hasn’t been a major update to either of these specs in five years. The recommendation for HTML 4.01 was released on December 24, 1999. HTTP 1.1 is even older — it’s been a standard since 1997. On the W3C’s HTTP page, the last entry in “News, Updates, and Events” is from 1998.

HTML has had the benefit of CSS since then, and that’s really where all the progress is. CSS 2.1 is a recommendation as of February 25, 2004, and CSS3 is in working draft mode. Still, very little has happened on the core HTML language. XHTML 1.0 is even four years old now.

HTTP has had WebDav since 1999, but there hasn’t even been an RFC with “http” in the title for over two years (RFC 3310).

So, my question is: is this lack of activity evidence of (1) an obsolete protocol and language that is hampering the utility of the Internet, or (2) a rock-solid protocol and language that has been robust enough to get us where we are now with few changes?

I have no answer, just the question.



  1. If it was obsolete it wouldn’t be the foundation for web, web services, soap, and so on…. It is the sign of a pretty solid protocol (not perfect though) and markup language.

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