It's time to stop coddling software that can't handle HTTPS URLs

May 12, 2015

A couple of years ago I moved my personal website from plain HTTP to using HTTPS. When I did that, one of the lessons I learned was that there were a certain number of syndication feed fetchers that didn't support HTTPS requests at all. My solution at the time was to sigh and add some bits to my lighttpd configuration so they'd be allowed to still fetch the HTTP version of my syndication feeds Now I'm in the process of moving this blog from HTTP to HTTPS and so I've been considering what I'll do about issues like this for here. This time around my decision is that I'm not going to create any special rules; anything fetching syndication feeds or web pages from here that can't do HTTPS (or follow redirections) is flat out of luck.

There are some pragmatic reasons for this, but ultimately it comes down to that I think it's now clearly time that we stopped accepting and coddling software that can only deal with HTTP URLs. The inevitable changes of the Internet have rendered such software broken. It's clear that HTTPS is increasingly the future of web activity and also clear that a decent number of sites will be moving to it via HTTP to HTTPS redirection. Software that cannot cope with both of these is decaying; the more sites that do this, the more pragmatically broken the software is.

I'm not going to say that you should never give in and accommodate decaying, broken software; if nothing else, I certainly have made some accommodations myself. But when I do that, I do it on a case by case basis and only when I've decided that it's sufficiently important; I don't do it generally. Coddling broken software in general only prolongs the pain, not just for you but for everyone. In this case, the more we accommodate HTTP only software the more traffic remains HTTP (and subject to snooping and alteration) instead of moving to HTTPS. HTTPS is not ideal, but it's clear that an HTTPS network is an improvement over the HTTP one we have today in practice.

This is likely going to hurt me somewhat (and already has, as some Planets (also) that carry Wandering Thoughts apparently haven't coped with this). But even apart from the pragmatic impossibility of trying to pick through all of the request to here to see which aren't successfully transitioning to HTTPS, I'm currently just not willing to coddle such bad software any more. It's 2015. You'd better be ready for the HTTPS transition because it's coming whether you like it or not.

The reason I feel like this now when I didn't originally is pretty simple: more time has passed. The whole situation with HTTP and HTTPS on the Internet has evolved significantly since 2013, and there is now real and steadily increasing momentum behind the HTTPS shift. What was kind of wild eyed and unreasonable in 2013 is increasingly mainstream.

Written on 12 May 2015.
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Last modified: Tue May 12 00:01:55 2015
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