An Open Letter to Tim Berners-Lee
1999-10-21 11:25:37

Laughable Technology
I'm not a pyro. I don't like to watch things burn. I like to watch them explode.
-- Baron Earl


Mr. Bad busts the Father of the Web over an egregious spelling mistake!

From: "Mr. Bad"
Subject: Complaint about HTTP: "Referer"
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 21:00:11 -0700

Dear Tim B.-L.:

I'm writing to you about an issue that's been bugging me for some time. In the HTTP protocol, which I *BELIEVE* you were instrumental in developing (correct me if I'm wrong on this), there is an EGREGIOUS spelling mistake.

Of course I refer (haha) to the HTTP header "Referer." As you may or may not know, there is NO WORD in the English language that is spelled "R-E-F-E-R-E-R."

If the word is intended to mean, "one who refers" or "the referring party" (as I could not but suppose it would), the correct spelling is "R-E-F-E-R-R-E-R:"

Of course, as you and I both know, computer languages and protocols don't revolve around the English language. We all take shortcuts and write database fields named "ordrNum" or create variables named "foo," "tmp" or "ItemCnt." Abbreviations and just plain meaningless names are par for the course in the computer world.

But the HTTP protocol is an EXCEPTION to this. Practically EVERY OTHER header field in HTTP is a fully-spelled-out English word or phrase ("ETag" being a notable exception). And several of the headers are MUCH longer than "Referer."

So there is no hiding behind expediency or data size or anything else when it comes to "Referer." It's not easier or more reasonable in terms of transmission time (optimizing by one character, indeed!). It's not a clever abbreviation or a commonly-used technical term. It's JUST PLAIN WRONG.

If it were a less-visible header that was so badly misspelled, like "Content-MD5" or "If-Unmodified-Since" or something like that, I wouldn't be in so much of a huff. But the "Referer" header has become an integral part of Web development, and the misspelling is often bandied about by people who don't know better. Even newbie Web site owners review their "referer logs" or read their "referer reports." The entire Internet advertising industry is BASED on "referer tracking."

I don't want to point any fingers here. I don't care whose fault the original misspelling was. There's no value in that for anyone. I just want to get this problem corrected and move on.

Now, given the huge installed base of Web server software, Web browsers, log-analysis software, and various programming libraries in many different language, it will be a monumental task to get this problem fixed. In fact, there is only one person who has the technical moral authority to lead this tremendous effort. ONLY YOU, Tim Berners-Lee can make this change happen. ONLY YOU can right the wrong that was made oh-so-long ago.

I CALL on you, as a renowned (dare I say it) SPIRITUAL leader of the Web community, to correct this error as soon as possible. The horse is already out of the barn as far as HTTP/1.1 is concerned, but it is not too late for HTTP/1.2 or HTTP-NG or HTTP/2.0 or whatever is next in the chute. The Web community, TOGETHER, working as a UNIT, can put the history of "Referer" behind us and move towards a brighter tomorrow.

Pick up the mantle of leadership, Tim Berners-Lee! Fight the good fight! Do it for the CHILDREN. I beseech you: don't let this horrible issue go unresolved! It is a CANCER at the HEART of the WEB!

~Mr. Bad

 Mr. Bad  | |  RoR - Alucard

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

comments powered by Disqus


T O P   S T O R I E S

Henry Juszkiewicz Destroys Gibson Guitars
by Thom 'Starky' Stark

Does anyone care about being wrong about Appalachia?
by Baron Earl

Eavesdropping on Geeks: Music to Protest By
by Flesh, Master Squid, Baron Earl, El Destino

Pigdog Journal Annual Christmas Essay Contest RUNNER UP ESSAY
by Lenny Tuberose


Baron Earl

Cliff Burton Day in Castro Valley


El Destino

When Spock met PLATO


El Destino

A musical reminder: Don't Say GIF


El Destino

Devo's one and only Christmas song


El Destino

What teenaged girls really wanted to ask David Cassidy


El Destino

Frank Sinatra told Donald Trump to "go fuck himself"


El Destino

Whatever happened to JenniCam's Jennifer Ringley?


El Destino

Iíve Made Millions Selling Fake Plastic Hillbilly Teeth


Baron Earl

Fyre Fest Lawsuit


Baron Earl

US Government uses drones to shoot M&Ms at endangered ferrets

More Quickies...