In a world that is now gradually adopting HTTP/3 (which, as you know, is implemented over QUIC), the problem with the missing API for QUIC is still a key problem.
There are a number of existing QUIC library implementation now since a few years back, and they are slowly maturing. The QUIC protocol became RFC 9000 and friends, but the most popular TLS libraries still don’t provide the necessary APIs to make QUIC libraries possible to use them.
Example that makes people want HTTP/3
For a long time, many people and projects (including yours truly) in the QUIC community were eagerly following the OpenSSL Pull Request 8797, which introduced the necessary QUIC APIs into OpenSSL. This change brought the same API to OpenSSL that BoringSSL already provides and as such the API has already been used and tested out by several independent implementations.
Implementations have a problem to ship to the world based on BoringSSL since that’s a TLS library without versions and proper releases, so it is not a good choice for the big wide world. OpenSSL is already the most widely used TLS library out there and lots of applications are already made to use that.
Delays made quictls happen
The OpenSSL PR8797 was delayed back in February 2020 on when the OpenSSL management committee (OMC) decreed that they would not deal with that PR until after their pending 3.0.0 release had shipped.
“It is our expectation that once the 3.0 release is done, QUIC will become a significant focus of our effort.”
OpenSSL then proceeded and their 3.0.0 release was delayed significantly compared to their initial time schedule.
In March 2021, Microsoft and Akamai announcedquictls, an OpenSSL fork with the express idea to ship OpenSSL + the QUIC API. They didn’t want to wait for OpenSSL to do it.
Several QUIC libraries can now use quictls. quictls has kept their fork up to date and now offers the equivalent of OpenSSL 3.0.0 + the QUIC API.
While we’ve been waiting for OpenSSL to adopt the API.
OpenSSL makes a turn instead
Then came the next blow to everyone’s expectations. An autumn surprise. On October 13, the OpenSSL OMC announces:
The focus for the next releases is QUIC, with the objective of providing a fully functional QUIC implementation over a series of releases (2-3).
OpenSSL has decided to implement a complete QUIC stack on their own and with the given time line it sounds like it will take them a few years (?) to ship. And instead of providing the API lots of implementers have been been waiting for so long, they explicitly say that it is a non-goal at the start:
The MVP will not contain a library API for an HTTP/3 implementation (it is a non-goal of the initial release).
I didn’t write my own QUIC implementation but I’ve followed the work of several of the implementations fairly closely and it is fairly complicated journey they set out for themselves – for very unclear reasons. There already exist several high quality QUIC libraries, why does OpenSSL think they need to make yet another one? They seem to be overloaded with work already before, which the long delays of the 3.0.0 release seemed to show, how are they going to be able to add a complete new stack implementation of top of this? The future will tell.
On October 20 2021, the pull request that was created in April 2019, is finally closed for real as a “won’t fix”.
Where are we now?
The lack of a QUIC API in OpenSSL has held us back and with this move from OpenSSL, it will continue to hold us back for an uncertain amount of time going forward.
QUIC stacks will have to stick to using or switching to other libraries.
James Snell, one of the key contributors on the QUIC and HTTP/3 work in nodejs tweeted:
The official publication date of the relevant QUIC specifications is: May 27, 2021.
I’ve done many presentations about HTTP and related technologies over the years. HTTP/2 had only just shipped when the QUIC working group had been formed in the IETF and I started to mention and describe what was being done there.
I’ve explained HTTP/3
I started writing the document HTTP/3 explained in February 2018 before the protocol was even called HTTP/3 (and yeah the document itself was also called something else at first). The HTTP protocol for QUIC was just called “HTTP over QUIC” in the beginning and it took until November 2018 before it got the name HTTP/3. I did my first presentation using HTTP/3 in the title and on slides in early December 2018, My first recorded HTTP/3 presentation was in January 2019 (in Stockholm, Sweden).
In that talk I mentioned that the protocol would be “live” by the summer of 2019, which was an optimistic estimate based on the then current milestones set out by the IETF working group.
I think my optimism regarding the release schedule has kept up but as time progressed I’ve updated that estimation many times…
HTTP/3 – not yet
The first four RFC documentations to be ratified and published only concern QUIC, the transport protocol, and not the HTTP/3 parts. The two HTTP/3 documents are also in queue but are slightly delayed as they await some other prerequisite (“generic” HTTP update) documents to ship first, then the HTTP/3 ones can ship and refer to those other documents.
QUIC is a new transport protocol. It is done over UDP and can be described as being something of a TCP + TLS replacement, merged into a single protocol.
Okay, the title of this blog is misleading. QUIC is actually documented in four different RFCs:
RFC 9002 – QUIC Loss Detection and Congestion Control
My role: I’m just a bystander
I initially wanted to keep up closely with the working group and follow what happened and participate on the meetings and interims etc. It turned out to be too difficult for me to do that so I had to lower my ambitions and I’ve mostly had a casual observing role. I just couldn’t muster the energy and spend the time necessary to do it properly.
I’ve participated in many of the meetings, I’ve been present in the QUIC implementers slack, I’ve followed lots of design and architectural discussions on the mailing list and in GitHub issues. I’ve worked on implementing support for QUIC and h3 in curl and thanks to that helped out iron issues and glitches in various implementations, but the now published RFCs have virtually no traces of me or my feedback in them.
tldr: the level of HTTP/3 support in servers is surprisingly high.
The specifications are all done. They’re now waiting in queues to get their final edits and approvals before they will get assigned RFC numbers and get published as such – they will not change any further. That’s a set of RFCs (six I believe) for various aspects of this new stack. The HTTP/3 spec is just one of those. Remember: HTTP/3 is the application protocol done over the new transport QUIC. (See http3 explained for a high-level description.)
The HTTP/3 spec was written to refer to, and thus depend on, two other HTTP specs that are in the works: httpbis-cache and https-semantics. Those two are mostly clarifications and cleanups of older HTTP specs, but this forces the HTTP/3 spec to have to get published after the other two, which might introduce a small delay compared to the other QUIC documents.
The working group has started to take on work on new specifications for extensions and improvements beyond QUIC version 1.
In early April 2021, the usage of QUIC and HTTP/3 in the world is measured by a few different companies.
netray.io scans the IPv4 address space weekly and checks how many hosts that speak QUIC. Their latest scan found 2.1 million such hosts.
Arguably, the netray number doesn’t say much. Those two million hosts could be very well used or barely used machines.
HTTP/3 by w3techs
w3techs.com has been in the game of scanning web sites for stats purposes for a long time. They scan the top ten million sites and count how large share that runs/supports what technologies and they also check for HTTP/3. In their data they call the old Google QUIC for just “QUIC” which is confusing but that should be seen as the precursor to HTTP/3.
What stands out to me in this data except that the HTTP/3 usage seems very high: the top one-million sites are claimed to have a higher share of HTTP/3 support (16.4%) than the top one-thousand (11.9%)! That’s the reversed for HTTP/2 and not how stats like this tend to look.
It has been suggested that the growth starting at Feb 2021 might be explained by Cloudflare’s enabling of HTTP/3 for users also in their free plan.
HTTP/3 by Cloudflare
On radar.cloudflare.com we can see Cloudflare’s view of a lot of Internet and protocol trends over the world.
This HTTP/3 number is significantly lower than w3techs’. Presumably because of the differences in how they measure.
All the major browsers have HTTP/3 implementations and most of them allow you to manually enable it if it isn’t already done so. Chrome and Edge have it enabled by default and Firefox will so very soon. The caniuse.com site shows it like this (updated on April 4):
(Earlier versions of this blog post showed the previous and inaccurate data from caniuse.com. Not anymore.)
curl supports HTTP/3 since a while back, but you need to explicitly enable it at build-time. It needs to use third party libraries for the HTTP/3 layer and it needs a QUIC capable TLS library. The QUIC/h3 libraries are still beta versions. See below for the TLS library situation.
curl’s HTTP/3 support is not even complete. There are still unsupported areas and it’s not considered stable yet.
curl supports 14 different TLS libraries at this time. Two of them have QUIC support landed: BoringSSL and GnuTLS. And a third would be the quictls OpenSSL fork. (There are also a few other smaller TLS libraries that support QUIC.)
The by far most popular TLS library to use with curl, OpenSSL, has postponed their QUIC work:
At the same time they have delayed the OpenSSL 3.0 release significantly. Their release schedule page still today speaks of a planned release of 3.0.0 in “early Q4 2020”. That plan expects a few months from the beta to final release and we have not yet seen a beta release, only alphas.
Realistically, this makes QUIC in OpenSSL many months off until it can appear even in a first alpha. Maybe even 2022 material?
The Google powered OpenSSL fork BoringSSL has supported QUIC for a long time and provides the OpenSSL API, but they don’t do releases and mostly focus on getting a library done for Google. People outside the company are generally reluctant to use and depend on this library for those reasons.
The quiche QUIC/h3 library from Cloudflare uses BoringSSL and curl can be built to use quiche (as well as BoringSSL).
Microsoft and Akamai have made a fork of OpenSSL available that is based on OpenSSL 1.1.1 and has the QUIC pull-request applied in order to offer a QUIC capable OpenSSL flavor to the world before the official OpenSSL gets their act together. This fork is called quictls. This should be compatible with OpenSSL in all other regards and provide QUIC with an API that is similar to BoringSSL’s.
The ngtcp2 QUIC library uses quictls. curl can be built to use ngtcp2 as well as with quictls,
Is HTTP/3 faster?
I realize I can’t blog about this topic without at least touching this question. The main reason for adding support for HTTP/3 on your site is probably that it makes it faster for users, so does it?
We’ve seen other numbers say h3 is faster shown before but it’s hard to find up-to-date performance measurements published for the current version of HTTP/3 vs HTTP/2 in real world scenarios. Partly of course because people have hesitated to compare before there are proper implementations to compare with, and not just development versions not really made and tweaked to perform optimally.
I think there are reasons to expect h3 to be faster in several situations, but for people with high bandwidth low latency connections in the western world, maybe the difference won’t be noticeable?
I’ve previously shown the slide below to illustrate what needs to be done for curl to ship with HTTP/3 support enabled in distros and “widely” and I think the same works for a lot of other projects and clients who don’t control their TLS implementation and don’t write their own QUIC/h3 layer code.
This house of cards of h3 is slowly getting some stable components, but there are still too many moving parts for most of us to ship.
I assume that the rest of the browsers will also enable HTTP/3 by default soon, and the specs will be released not too long into the future. That will make HTTP/3 traffic on the web increase significantly.
The QUIC and h3 libraries will ship their first non-beta versions once the specs are out.
The TLS library situation will continue to hamper wider adoption among non-browsers and smaller players.
The big players already deploy HTTP/3.
I’ve updated this post after the initial publication, and the biggest corrections are in the Chrome/Edge details. Thanks to immediate feedback from Eric Lawrence. Remaining errors are still all mine! Thanks also to Barry Pollard who filed the PR to update the previously flawed caniuse.com data.
We have started the work on extending wolfSSL to provide the necessary API calls to power QUIC and HTTP/3 implementations!
Small, fast and FIPS
The TLS library known as wolfSSL is already very often a top choice when users are looking for a small and yet very fast TLS stack that supports all the latest protocol features; including TLS 1.3 support – open source with commercial support available.
As manufacturers of IoT devices and other systems with memory, CPU and footprint constraints are looking forward to following the Internet development and switching over to upcoming QUIC and HTTP/3 protocols, wolfSSL is here to help users take that step.
A QUIC reminder
In case you have forgot, here’s a schematic view of HTTPS stacks, old vs new. On the right side you can see HTTP/3, QUIC and the little TLS 1.3 box there within QUIC.
There are no plans to write a full QUIC stack. There are already plenty of those. We’re talking about adjustments and extensions of the existing TLS library API set to make sure wolfSSL can be used as the TLS component in a QUIC stack.
One of the leading QUIC stacks and so far the only one I know of that does this, ngtcp2 is written to be TLS library agnostic and allows different TLS libraries to be plugged in as different backends. I believe it makes perfect sense to make such a plugin for wolfSSL to be a sensible step as soon as there’s code to try out.
A neat effect of that, would be that once wolfSSL works as a backend to ngtcp2, it should be possible to do full-fledged HTTP/3 transfers using curl powered by ngtcp2+wolfSSL. Contact us with other ideas for QUIC stacks you would like us to test wolfSSL with!
We expect wolfSSL to be the first FIPS-based implementation to add support for QUIC. I hear this is valuable to a number of users.
This work begins now and this is just a blog post of our intentions. We and I will of course love to get your feedback on this and whatever else that is related. We’re also interested to get in touch with people and companies who want to be early testers of our implementation. You know where to find us!
I can promise you that the more interest we can sense to exist for this effort, the sooner we will see the first code to test out.
It seems likely that we’re not going to support any older TLS drafts for QUIC than draft-29.
FOSDEM 2020 is over for this time and I had an awesome time in Brussels once again.
I brought a huge collection of stickers this year and I kept going back to the wolfSSL stand to refill the stash and it kept being emptied almost as fast. Hundreds of curl stickers were given away! The photo on the right shows my “sticker bag” as it looked before I left Sweden.
Lesson for next year: bring a larger amount of stickers! If you missed out on curl stickers, get in touch and I’ll do my best to satisfy your needs.
“HTTP/3 for everyone” was my single talk this FOSDEM. Just two days before the talk, I landed updated commits in curl’s git master branch for doing HTTP/3 up-to-date with the latest draft (-25). Very timely and I got to update the slide mentioning this.
As I talked HTTP/3 already last year in the Mozilla devroom, I also made sure to go through the slides I used then to compare and make sure I wouldn’t do too much of the same talk. But lots of things have changed and most of the content is updated and different this time around. Last year, literally hundreds of people were lining up outside wanting to get into room when the doors were closed. This year, I talked in the room Janson, which features 1415 seats. The biggest one on campus. It was pack full!
It is kind of an adrenaline rush to stand in front of such a wall of people. At one time in my talk I paused for a brief moment and then I felt I could almost hear the complete silence when a huge amount of attentive faces captured what I had to say.
I got a lot of positive feedback on the presentation. I also thought that my decision to not even try to take question in the big room was a correct and I ended up talking and discussing details behind the scene for a good while after my talk was done. Really fun!
The video is also available from the FOSDEM site in webm and mp4 formats.
If you want the slides only, run over to slideshare and view them.
I’m going to FOSDEM again in 2020, this will be my 11th consecutive year I’m travling to this awesome conference in Brussels, Belgium.
At this my 11th FOSDEM visit I will also deliver my 11th FOSDEM talk: “HTTP/3 for everyone“. It will happen at 16:00 Saturday the 1st of February 2020, in Janson, the largest room on the campus. (My third talk in the main track.)
For those who have seen me talk about HTTP/3 before, this talk will certainly have overlaps but I’m also always refreshing and improving slides and I update them as the process moves on, things changes and I get feedback. I spoke about HTTP/3 already at FODEM 2019 in the Mozilla devroom (at which time there was a looong line of people who tried, but couldn’t get a seat in the room) – but I think you’ll find that there’s enough changes and improvements in this talk to keep you entertained this year as well!
If you come to FOSDEM, don’t hesitate to come say hi and grab a curl sticker or two – I intend to bring and distribute plenty – and talk curl, HTTP and Internet transfers with me!
You will most likely find me at my talk, in the cafeteria area or at the wolfSSL stall. (DM me on twitter to pin me down! @bagder)
2019 is special in my heart. 2019 was different than many other years to me in several ways. It was a great year! This is what 2019 was to me.
curl and wolfSSL
I quit Mozilla last year and in the beginning of the year I could announce that I joined wolfSSL. For the first time in my life I could actually work with curl on my day job. As the project turned 21 I had spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 unpaid spare time hours on it and now I could finally do it “for real”. It’s huge.
Just in November 2018 the name HTTP/3 was set and this year has been all about getting it ready. I was proud to land and promote HTTP/3 in curl just before the first browser (Chrome) announced their support. The standard is still in progress and we hope to see it ship not too long into next year.
Focusing on curl full time allows a different kind of focus. I’ve landed more commits in curl during 2019 than any other year going back all the way to 2005. We also reached 25,000 commits and 3,000 forks on github.
We’ve added HTTP/3, alt-svc, parallel transfers in the curl tool, tiny-curl, fixed hundreds of bugs and much, much more. Ten days before the end of the year, I’ve authored 57% (over 700) of all the commits done in curl during 2019.
We also (re)started our own curl Bug Bounty in 2019 together with Hackerone and paid over 1000 USD in rewards through-out the year. It was so successful we’re determined to raise the amounts significantly going into 2020.
I’ve done 28 talks in six countries. A crazy amount in front of a lot of people.
When Github had their Github Universe event in November and talked about their new sponsors program on stage (which I am part of, you can sponsor me) this huge quote of mine was shown on the big screen.
Maybe not media, but in no less than two Mr Robot episodes we could see curl commands in a TV show!
I personally have not done this many commits to curl in a single month (August 2019) for over three years. This increased activity is of course primarily due to the merge of and work with the HTTP/3 code. And yet, that is still only in its infancy…
the 185th release 6 changes 54 days (total: 7,845) 81 bug fixes (total: 5,347) 214 commits (total: 24,719) 1 new public libcurl function (total: 81) 1 new curl_easy_setopt() option (total: 269) 4 new curl command line option (total: 225) 46 contributors, 23 new (total: 2,014) 29 authors, 14 new (total: 718) 2 security fixes (total: 92) 450 USD paid in Bug Bounties
Two security advisories
TFTP small blocksize heap buffer overflow
(CVE-2019-5482) If you told curl to do TFTP transfers using a smaller than default “blocksize” (default being 512), curl could overflow a heap buffer used for the protocol exchange. Rewarded 250 USD from the curl bug bounty.
(CVE-2019-5481) If you used FTP-kerberos with curl and the server maliciously or mistakenly responded with a overly large encrypted block, curl could end up doing a double-free in that exit path. This would happen on applications where allocating a large 32 bit max value (up to 4GB) is a problem. Rewarded 200 USD from the curl bug bounty.
The new features in 7.66.0 are…
This experimental feature is disabled by default but can be enabled and works (by some definition of “works”). Daniel went through “HTTP/3 in curl” in this video from a few weeks ago:
There’s a standard HTTP header that some servers return when they can’t or won’t respond right now, which indicates after how many seconds or at what point in the future the request might be fulfilled. libcurl can now return that number easily and curl’s –retry option makes use of it (if present).
curl_multi_poll is a new function offered that is very similar to curl_multi_wait, but with one major benefit: it solves the problem for applications of what to do for the occasions when libcurl has no file descriptor at all to wait for. That has been a long-standing and perhaps far too little known issue.
When using SASL authentication, curl and libcurl now can provide the authzid field as well!
Some interesting bug-fixes included in this release..
.netrc and .curlrc on Windows
Starting now, curl and libcurl will check for and use the dot-prefixed versions of these files even on Windows and only fall back and check for and use the underscore-prefixed versions for compatibility if the dotted one doesn’t exist. This unifies curl’s behavior across platforms.
asyn-thread: create a socketpair to wait on
With this perhaps innocuous-sounding change, libcurl on Linux and other Unix systems will now provide a file descriptor for the application to wait on while name resolving in a background thread. This lets applications know better when to call libcurl again and avoids having to just blindly wait and retry. A performance gain.
Credentials in URL when using HTTP proxy
We found and fixed a regression that made curl not use credentials properly from the URL when doing multi stage authentication (like HTTP Digest) with a proxy.
Move code into vssh for SSH backends
A mostly janitor-style fix that also now abstracted away more SSH-using code to not know what particular SSH backend that is being used while at the same time making it easier to write and provide new SSH backends in the future. I’m personally working a little slowly on one, to be talked about at a later point.
Disable HTTP/0.9 by default
If you want libcurl to accept and deliver HTTP/0.9 responses to your application, you need to tell it to do that. Starting in this version, curl will consider those invalid HTTP responses by default.
We introduced alt-svc support a while ago but as it is marked experimental and nobody felt a strong need to use it, it clearly hasn’t been used or tested much in real life. When we’ve worked on using alt-svc to bootstrap into HTTP/3 we found and fixed a whole range of little issues with the alt-svc support and it is now in a much better shape. However, it is still marked experimental.
IPv6 addresses in URLs
It was reported that the URL parser would accept malformatted IPv6 addresses that subsequently and counter-intuitively would get resolved as a host name internally! An example URL would be “https://[ab.de]/’ – where all the letters and symbols within the brackets are individually allowed components of a IPv6 numerical address but it still isn’t a valid IPv6 syntax and instead is a legitimate and valid host name.
We recently ran a poll among users of what we feel are the more important things to work on, and with that the rough roadmap has been updated. Those are things I want to work on next but of course I won’t guarantee anything and I will greatly appreciate all help and assistance that I can get. And sure, we can and will work on other things too!
In the afternoon of August 5 2019, I successfully made curl request a document over HTTP/3, retrieve it and then exit cleanly again.
(It got a 404 response code, two HTTP headers and 10 bytes of content so the actual response was certainly less thrilling to me than the fact that it actually delivered that response over HTTP version 3 over QUIC.)
The components necessary for this to work, if you want to play along at home, are reasonably up-to-date git clones of curl itself and the HTTP/3 library called quiche (and of course quiche’s dependencies too, like boringssl), then apply pull-request 4193 (build everything accordingly) and run a command line like:
curl --http3-direct https://quic.tech:8443
The host name used here (“quic.tech”) is a server run by friends at Cloudflare and it is there for testing and interop purposes and at the time of this test it ran QUIC draft-22 and HTTP/3.
The command line option --http3-direct tells curl to attempt HTTP/3 immediately, which includes using QUIC instead of TCP to the host name and port number – by default you should of course expect a HTTPS:// URL to use TCP + TLS.
The official way to bootstrap into HTTP/3 from HTTP/1 or HTTP/2 is via the server announcing it’s ability to speak HTTP/3 by returning an Alt-Svc: header saying so. curl supports this method as well, it just needs it to be explicitly enabled at build-time since that also is still an experimental feature.
To use alt-svc instead, you do it like this:
curl --alt-svc altcache https://quic.tech:8443
The alt-svc method won’t “take” on the first shot though since it needs to first connect over HTTP/2 (or HTTP/1) to get the alt-svc header and store that information in the “altcache” file, but if you then invoke it again and use the same alt-svc cache curl will know to use HTTP/3 then!
Be aware that I just made this tiny GET request work. The code is not cleaned up, there are gaps in functionality, we’re missing error checks, we don’t have tests and chances are the internals will change quite a lot going forward as we polish this.
You’re of course still more than welcome to join in, play with it, report bugs or submit pull requests! If you help out, we can make curl’s HTTP/3 support better and getting there sooner than otherwise.
QUIC and TLS backends
curl currently supports two different QUIC/HTTP3 backends, ngtcp2 and quiche. Only the latter currently works this good though. I hope we can get up to speed with the ngtcp2 one too soon.
quiche uses and requires boringssl to be used while ngtcp2 is TLS library independent and will allow us to support QUIC and HTTP/3 with more TLS libraries going forward. Unfortunately it also makes it more complicated to use…
The official OpenSSL doesn’t offer APIs for QUIC. QUIC uses TLS 1.3 but in a way it was never used before when done over TCP so basically all TLS libraries have had to add APIs and do some adjustments to work for QUIC. The ngtcp2 team offers a patched version of OpenSSL that offers such an API so that OpenSSL be used.
Neither the QUIC nor the HTTP/3 protocols are entirely done and ready yet. We’re using the protocols as they are defined in the 22nd version of the protocol documents. They will probably change a little more before they get carved in stone and become the final RFC that they are on their way to.
The libcurl API so far
The command line options mentioned above of course have their corresponding options for libcurl using apps as well.