I’m toying around with very small and very constrained embedded devices right now. When you make millions of a small thing, every byte in code footprint and any processing cycle you can save saves real money. An XML parser is a big chunk of code. So is a JSON parser. Every HTTP stack already has a key/value pair parser for headers. We can use that.

NHTTP stands for NoHyperText Transfer Protocol. Yes, I made that up. No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. Hear me out.

All rules of RFC2616 apply, except for section 7.2, meaning there is must never an entity body on any request or reply. Instead we rely entirely on section 7.1 and its extensibility rule:

  • The extension-header mechanism allows additional entity-header fields to be defined without changing the protocol, but these fields cannot be assumed to be recognizable by the recipient. Unrecognized header fields SHOULD be ignored by the recipient and MUST be forwarded by transparent proxies.

All property payloads are expressed as key/value pairs that are directly mapped onto HTTP headers. No value can exceed 2KB in size and you can’t have more than 32 values per message so that we stay comfortably within common HTTP infrastructure quotas. To avoid collisions with existing headers and to allow for easy enumeration, each property key is prefixed with “P-“

POST /foo HTTP/1.1
Host: example.com
Content-Length: 0
P-Name: “Clemens”

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Length: 0
P-Greeting: “Hello, Clemens”

(The fun bit is that the Windows Azure Service Bus HTTP API for sending and receiving messages already supports this exact model since we map custom message properties to headers and the HTTP entity body to the body of broker messages and those can be empty)