Traditionally only root could use ports lower than 
As an aside, this is one of the more daft aspects of Unix. There's no reason whatsoever that http should need bits to run. The reasons cited for services such as ftp, smtp, imap, etc aren't very compelling, either. This restriction, ostensibly in the name of security, has in fact been a cause of a number of security problems.
In the silliness scale, it's up there with exposing numeric user IDs. (You can't do arithmetic with them for anything useful.)