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15. Network Protocols > Power and Protocols

Power and Protocols

Let’s take a minute to consider the politics of protocols, because politics are more likely than performance to determine which protocols are actually used and which remain only theoretical.

Protocols have value in proportion to the number of users: a widely used protocol gives you the desirable ability to communicate with a large number of people. So when a protocol has enough users, it tends to attract even more users. Let’s call this the snowball effect, because a simple snowball thrown down the side of a mountain can grow to be an avalanche. The snowball effect doesn’t take into account whether the communications protocol is high performance. Just being able to communicate at all with huge numbers of people is valuable. This is exactly what happened with HTTP. It’s not a particularly efficient protocol, but it has provided great value through its ubiquity.


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