Mr. Bad busts the Father of the Web over an egregious spelling mistake!
From: "Mr. Bad" To: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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
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 | http://pigdog.org/ | RoR - Alucard