HTTP is the networking protocol which makes what you’re reading right now possible. It is the World Wide Web. Most contemporary sites use HTTP 1.1, but this dates back to 1999 when the internet was vastly different. Most people would agree things have moved on since then; modern internet users demand ultra-fast speeds, online safety, and a streamlined experience. HTTP/2 will help deliver this.
Initially titled HTTP/2.0, the name was soon changed to the snappier HTTP/2. More importantly, it’s a landmark event in the history of the internet. Based on SPDY (which is pronounced “speedy”, to avoid confusion) an open networking protocol developed by Google, HTTP working group the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) have been developing the update.
As the IETF explained, “HTTP/2 is a replacement for how HTTP is expressed ‘on the wire.’ It is not a ground-up rewrite of the protocol; HTTP methods, status codes and semantics are the same, and it should be possible to use the same APIs as HTTP/1.x.” This means HTTP/2 will effectively sweep away the cobwebs of the older version and introduce a speedier, and eventually more secure, online experience.
There are two key improvements with HTTP/2 – a faster browsing speed and the push for improved online safety. Naturally the IETF have been vocal on the benefits of the new software. They stated, “The focus of the protocol is on performance; specifically, end-user perceived latency, network and server resource usage. One major goal is to allow the use of a single connection from browsers to a Web site.”
HTTP/2 uses the same HTTP APIs many developers will be familiar with, along with a new batch of features. There are expectations it will be more cost effective to implement. As explained by TheNextWeb, “The Web community has often told developers to avoid adding too many HTTP requests to their pages, which led to optimization techniques like code inlining or concatenation to reduce the requests.” HTTP/2 includes a multiplexing feature which allow a vast array of requests to be delivered, meaning a page load won’t be blocked.
Web developer Mark Nottingham has expanded on the potential of HTTP/2. On his official blog he’s stated he expects cheaper requests, improved network and server friendliness, and cache pushing (saving a “trip between fetching HTML and linked stylesheets and CSS”). He did warn, however, all of this will take time to perfect. It’s a learning process for everyone.
Comparison Between HTTP/2 and HTTP
HttpWatch performed a comparison test which showcases the differences in versions. The test discovered superior loading rates for webpages, as was the plan, although there are concerns safety may be compromised in the early days of the upgrade.
In their conclusion they stated, “HTTP/2 is likely to provide significant performance advantages compared to raw HTTPS and even SPDY. However the use of padding in response messages is an area of potential concern where there could be a trade-off between performance and security.”
You can read the full details of their extensive comparison here.
Release Date and FAQs
The adoption speed will determine when you can enjoy the benefits of HTTP/2. Hosting services, search giants such as Google, and websites will need to implement HTTP/2 and will do so at different times. The big news is Google have announced their intention to use it in Chrome (their official browser) in 2016 – expect many others to follow in their footsteps.
Whilst we await its arrival, web developers can a list of FAQs to discover more about HTTP/2.