HTTP/2 is Here – and It’s Going to Make the Web a Lot Faster

Friday, April 15, 2016 | By atomix
Highway at night

What is HTTP/2?

Ever looked up at the address bar in your web browser? You would have seen four letters… http.

They stand for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which is basically the set of rules around how information is transferred between computers on the internet.

These http rules were set up in 1999 and haven’t really changed since.

But in February 2015 the group responsible for creating internet standards – the Internet Engineering Task Force – approved an updated version: HTTP/2.

What’s different about HTTP/2?

The big difference from http (or HTTP/1) to HTTP/2 is the way your browser downloads data when you visit a website.

Using HTTP/1, your browser makes a new connection with a server every time it needs a piece of info. Using HTTP/2, there’s one constant connection between the browser and the server.

There are some other very cool (but slightly more technical) features too. Check out a list of those at the bottom of this page.

What’s the benefit of HTTP/2?

In a word: speed.

HTTP/2 loads webpages much faster thanks to the constant connection between browser and server. This reduces the amount of data being transferred and saves you time as you navigate a website.

It also speeds up mobile browsing, which is a major plus.

Watch a demo of the difference between HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 here

http2-test

Image | CDN77

Try it a few times. You can see HTTP/2 shaving up to a good few seconds off the image load time. Replicate that for every asset on a webpage and you pretty quickly get an idea what difference this makes.

Great. How do I get HTTP/2?

From a user’s point of view you might already be using it already without noticing. Google switched to HTTP/2 in its Chrome browser in early 2016.

The tech is available, so now it’s up to developers and companies to make the most of it. High profile sites like to Google, Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo are all expected to implement in the near future.

But if you have your own website and want to make sure you’re benefiting from the advantages of HTTP/2, you need to make sure your site has a security certificate – signified by the S in https.

The only other requirement is a web server capable of serving HTTP/2 requests (the latest versions of Apache, nginx and LiteSpeed Web Server all support HTTP/2).

The other cool but slightly more techie features of HTTP/2

  • Transfers data in binary, so your computer doesn’t have to translate the info it receives.
  • Multiplexing: sending and receiving multiple messages at the same time.
  • Prioritization: more important data is transferred first.
  • Compression: info is broken down into smaller pieces.
  • Server push: a server anticipates your next request and starts sending data before it’s been requested.