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The Art of Unix Programming
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Unix Programming - Application Protocol Metaformats - BEEP: Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol

BEEP: Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol

BEEP (formerly BXXP) is a generic protocol machine that competes with HTTP for the role of universal underlayer for application protocols. There is a niche open because there is not as yet any other more established metaprotocol that is appropriate for truly peer-to-peer applications, as opposed to the client-server applications that HTTP handles well. A project website provides access to standards and open-source implementations in several languages.

BEEP has features to support both client-server and peer-to-peer modes. The authors designed the BEEP protocol and support library so that picking the right options abstracts away messy issues like data encoding, flow control, congestion-handling, support of end-to-end encryption, and assembling a large response composed of multiple transmissions,

Internally, BEEP peers exchange sequences of self-describing binary packets not unlike chunk types in PNG. The design is tuned more for economy and less for transparency than the classical Internet protocols or HTTP, and might be a better choice when data volumes are large. BEEP also avoids the HTTP problem that all requests have to be client-initiated; it would be better in situations in which a server needs to send asynchronous status messages back to the client.

BEEP is still new technology in mid-2003, and has only a few demonstration projects. But the BEEP papers are good analytical surveys of best practice in protocol design; even if BEEP itself fails to gain widespread adoption, the papers will retain considerable tutorial value.


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The Art of Unix Programming
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