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From (Rob Hartill)
Subject HTTP/1.1 header problem (fwd)
Date Sat, 21 Dec 1996 01:30:29 GMT


stuborn fools.

----- Forwarded message from George Boyce -----

Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 16:22:18 -0800
From: George Boyce <>
Message-Id: <>
X-Mailer: Z-Mail-SGI (3.2S.3 08feb96 MediaMail)
Subject: HTTP/1.1 header problem
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii


I am responsible for the operation of the AOL web access service.

Last week my development team gave me a new version of our system. Among the
changes was a "fix" to allow connections only from HTTP/1.0 compliant servers.
There are at least four issues with this fix...

1. We should not have installed code which changes the behaviour of the service
without a discussion of the changes. We should have seen the other problems
coming and taken responsible action to minimize the impact. I think development
agrees with me but only time will tell.

2. We discovered a bug in this code which sometimes incorrectly identified the
type of headers being returned. A fix for this will be installed as soon as

3. We have not supported HTTP/0.9 for a while so that was no change.

4. But a recent version of the apache server does send HTTP/1.1 headers even
when contacted by a HTTP/1.0 browser and proxy. After careful thought and loud
debate, I lost, and we consider this to be inconsistent with the HTTP/1.0 spec.
We also consider our error message to be consistent with the HTTP/1.1 spec,
though our service is certainly not HTTP/1.1 compliant, and of course it isn't
very friendly to our members.

The 1.0 spec doesn't allow the server to respond with a 1.1 response:
HTTP/1.0 servers must:
     respond appropriately with a message in the same protocol version used by
the client.

And our proxy is responding with an error as even the 1.1 spec allows.
Since the protocol version indicates the protocol capability of the sender, a
proxy/gateway MUST never send a message with a version indicator which is
greater than its actual version; if a higher version request is received, the
proxy/gateway MUST either downgrade the request version, respond with an error,
or switch to tunnel behavior.

In the spirit of making things work, our development team will work on a way to
downgrade HTTP/1.1 requests and responses to HTTP/1.0. Until then, would you
folks consider having your server respond to HTTP/1.0 requests with HTTP/1.0

Looking forward to your reply. We certainly want the AOL web access service to
work with the apache server. Please don't listen to those few who yell at AOL
for all of our screwups in the past and future. We generally had a reason for
most of them; it is really difficult to run a reliable service for this many


George Boyce
Director, AOL/GNN Internet Ops, 703.453.4152, Fax: 453.4013,

----- End of forwarded message from George Boyce -----

Rob Hartill.       Internet Movie Database Ltd.  

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