Thursday, March 24, 2005

Polling and pinging considered harmful

As I've gotten deeper into the whole "blog thing", it bothers me how primitive the web architecture and infrastructure really are. After all, hardware designers discovered eons ago that polling was a truly lousy way of doing I/O, especially in a high traffic environment. So, why are users of the web and blogs, especially bloggers and people hoping to read blogs in a timely manner reduced to tedious and inefficient stone-age manual "pinging" and "polling" to announce and detect the availability of new information? It makes no sense to me. Sure, I know why mediocre software designers would resort to such a least-common denominator solution and that they feel that it's "okay" to push work off onto the dumb users, but it hardly seems fit for networked life in the 21st century. We really do deserve a 21st century approach to information propagation.

Hardware designers came up with the concept of an "interrupt" and high-performance computing exploits it nicely. The web needs a similar capability. Sure, there are special problems that need to be addressed as well, such as the nature of distributed computing, hackers, denial-of-service attacks, rogue publishers, peak demand, load balancing, etc., but there is no end of ideas and talent for attacking such issues.

There is no excuse for the propagation of information on the internet to be far less efficient than for old-fashioned radio, television, telegraph, and telephone.

I do have some specific architecture ideas in mind, but I want to polish them some more.

-- Jack Krupansky

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