Decentralized Media Types

February 9th, 2008  |  Published in HTTP, REST, standards  |  Bookmark on

In RESTful systems, media types define the formats of data exchanged between client and server. Standard media types are centrally registered and managed via the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). If none of the registered IANA media types fits your application, you’re free to write up and submit a new one that does.

Less than one week ago I was wondering to myself why media types are centrally managed when the web typically prefers decentralization. I was therefore pleasantly surprised today when I read Stefan Tilkov’s posting on this very topic. The proposed solution he describes, from Sanjiva Weerawarana, Paul Fremantle, Jonathan Marsh, and James Clark, is pretty much in line with what I was thinking: register a new media type that has a URI parameter for identifying an actual data description. Very simple and yet potentially extremely effective.

I like this approach for several reasons beyond just the decentralization win. First, this allows us to gain experience with new media types before they’re standardized. Second, this augments rather than replaces the current IANA registration approach, and doesn’t break the existing IANA registration process in any way. Third, it doesn’t break or otherwise negatively impact any existing applications.

So, enough emailing and blogging about it — who’s going to write it and submit it to the IANA? I hereby offer to pitch in and help in whatever way I can.

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