The first major change to HTTP in 16 years has been finalized!
After years of development, HTTP/2 has been formally approved. According to an update by Mark Nottingham (the chair of the IETF HTTP Working Group), HTTP/2 has been officially finalized and has moved toward being fully standardized.
The previous version (HTTP/1.1) was adopted in 1999, making this the first major change to HTTP in 16 years! Right about now you’re probably thinking that all sounds fine and dandy…but what does it mean for me?
HTTP/1.1 is starting to show its age…
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is the mechanism your web browser uses to request information from a server and display webpages on your screen. The majority of sites use version 1.1, but a lot has changed on the web and it’s definitely time for a new version.
Loading a webpage has become more resource intensive than ever before. Engadget explains that websites nowadays include many different components. In order to transfer that information, the browser needs to create multiple connections and each one has details about the source, destination, and contents of the communication package or protocol. This puts a huge load on both the server delivering the content, as well as your browser. Those connections and the processing power they require can result in slowdowns when more elements are added to a site.
Why is HTTP/2 better?
To put it simply: HTTP/2 loads webpages faster, saving you time that would otherwise go to waste. Yes, it’s that simple!
Most people have grown accustomed to blazing-fast internet. For many, even the slightest delay can lead to a complete meltdown. For businesses, a website that loads slowly can translate directly into lost sales. This is especially true for online services where longer load times can result in a bad customer experience.
HTTP/2 is based on Google’s SPDY protocol and improves speed by creating one constant connection between the browser and the server, as opposed to a connection every time a piece of information is requested. This drastically reduces the amount of data being transferred. Additionally, HTTP/2 transfers data in binary (a computer’s native language), rather than in text. Because of this, your computer won’t have to waste time deciphering information into a format it understands.
Other features of HTTP/2 include:
- Multiplexing: Sending and receiving multiple messages at the same time.
- The use of prioritization: More important data is transferred first.
- Compression: Squeezing information into smaller chunks.
- Server push: A server makes a guess about what your next request will be and sends that data ahead of time.
Many people may already be using HTTP/2 unknowingly. The HTTP/2 technology is currently being used in many web servers and browsers, even if it’s still just a draft. Microsoft supports HTTP/2 on Internet Explorer under the Windows 10 Technical Preview; Chrome also supports it (it’s disabled by default but users can enable it); and Mozilla has had it available since Firefox Beta 36.
When do we get to try HTTP/2 out?
It shouldn’t be long before the standard is passed through the Request-For-Comments Editor and published for use in its final form. Chances are you won’t even notice it when the switch happens, unless your favorite hobby is timing how long it takes your favorite sites to load. Life will keep going as usual, it will just be faster!