Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

SIP and HTTP - the problematic comparison (hype)...

There's a lot of excitement in the 3G world about SIP - Session Initiation Protocol. In fact, a whole new approach to the core of a 3G network is being built around this protocol. The new approach is embodied in something called the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). In my 100 ideas series of postings, I have posted some mobile application ideas based on SIP, such as Push-to-Taxi (for the others, search for SIP in my blog).

However, it seems that claims for SIP and the "SIP revolution" are often overstated, or at least problematic. The problem comes when the inevitable comparison is made with HTTP. A common theme in whitepapers and sales presentations is that just as the Web was built on HTTP, thus SIP will be the catalyst of the new "3G services world" (there's no neat name for it like 'web' - perhaps we need one).

This may well be true, sort of. But, the Web was not built on HTTP alone. The equally critical and symbiotic components were the browser ("universal client") and HTML. How many of us, way way back, were coding HTML and watching our grey-background pages magically appear in the browser without a clue about HTTP? It was almost incidental to the plot, except for that "http://" bit that did all the magic.

Even today, many website makers are blissfully HTTP ignorant ("HTTP - isn't that something to do with Apache?"). Plus, HTML coding has just got easier and easier with those wonderful things called tools, like Dreamweaver and its stable mates. Great stuff!

Of course, I know what SIP does. It initiates sessions and it does it well. And, granted, it is HTTP-like as protocol hacks will tell us. But that's it.

I also know that "rapid" might be true, which in telecoms terms means less than years to develop a service. "Low cost" is also true, which probably means a less than a few million. Whereas, in the Web world, working services can be created in months and at the cost of a few rupees per offshore coder - none of that ugly and expensive integration to worry about.

The real slight of hand though is the notion that IMS might be like the World Wide Web. IMS is an enclosed enclave in the cartels' networks whereas WWW is a million or so openly accessible servers.

However, I digress a little. What's the key point here?

HTTP + HTML + Installable desktop browser = genuine rapid service creation environment (just add creativity)

SIP + Other IMS bits I dare not mention = a bunch of interfaces

And...for completeness...

WSP + WML + Fixed WAP Browser = pain!

Believe me, I've worked with all these (still do) and I know the difference between an apple and an orange. Don't be fooled by the hype.

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