MDMA server at UNC/SunSITE is broken

Roy T. Fielding (fielding@avron.ICS.UCI.EDU)
Thu, 15 Sep 1994 02:47:00 +0200

I would send this directly to Simon, but I can't find his e-mail address
right now. In any case, I think ALL people building HTTP server's should
be aware of this as well.

The MDMA server that was just installed at is broken.
If this were an experimental site, I wouldn't care. However, SunSITE is
a major site, and the fact that it is broken may have major ramifications
to those who link to it.

Why it is broken:

1) Does not support the HEAD request

This is the easiest method for a server to support. It is very
important for link verification tools and for many caching servers.
It is simply inexcusable not to support it on a major server.

2) Fails to include a Date: header on responses. This header is necessary
for cache management.

3) The ctime format is used for the Last-modified: date. That format
hasn't been used by valid servers in over a year!

4) Does not support the If-Modified-Since header (conditional GET protocol)
that allows for efficient cache updates.

5) Uses pathetic error messages. For example:

User-Agent: HEAD/0.4 libwww-perl/0.40

HTTP/1.0 501 Something broke
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html

<H1>Error 501</H1>

This is not the kind of thing that I would ever want to encounter
at a production site, certainly not at one as well-funded as SunSITE.
As WWW developers, we should all realize that changes to often-used
servers need to be made with great care. Failing to do so makes us
all look like a bunch of flakes.

Simon, I know you are capable of fixing the above. Either fix them now
or reinstall the NCSA server.

...Roy Fielding ICS Grad Student, University of California, Irvine USA
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