Aug 13

What Is HTTP/2? – A Complete Guide On HTTP2 Protocol.

The World Wide Web was founded on an application layer called the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). In simple terms, HTTP powers the interconnection of resources that are connected to form the cyber world. Over time, this application layer has evolved to deliver what we enjoy now as a secure, fast, and diverse medium of communication in the digital world. Now, the latest update of the internet is HTTP/2; if you are new to HTTP/2, you shouldn’t be worried because we are going to go through where it came from, what it is, how it benefits the internet and how it is implemented. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Where did HTTP/2 come from?

Tim Berners-Lee is the man behind the World Wide Web; he designed the underlying application protocol to be simple enough to enable easy and fast communication between client machines and web-servers. In 1991, the first version of HTTP was released as HTTP0.9. In 1996, HTTP1.0 was officially introduced. Later on, it was followed by HTTP1.1 in 1997. Since then, there have been minimal improvements that have been made.

“But where did HTTP/2 come from?” one might ask. Well, the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) HTTP Working Group developed HTTP/2 which was the second major update of the application protocol. In May 2015, with respect to Google’s HTTP-compatible SPDY protocol, the HTTP/2 implementation specification was made official.

What is HTTP/2?

As we have mentioned above, the HTTP/2 is the latest version of the application protocol of the World Wide Web. The changes that HTTP/2 has made can easily be seen on how websites are now mobile compatible. The previous versions of the protocol were designed for text and not for other forms of content. Sites today are larger, and they contain various kinds of data, from forums, background images, images, videos, and even virtual assistants to name a few. To put it plainly, HTTP/2 allows for an enhanced experience on the website compared to its predecessors.

What are the features of HTTP/2 as compared to HTTP1.1?

The HTTP/1.1 protocol was very different; it had slow internet connections and slow loading of web pages. But over time, we have evolved on how we use the internet, and this has brought about more complex websites that demand more of the web infrastructure. The uptake of more content on the internet led to the upgrade of the internet’s infrastructure to enable it to handle large chunks of data in a world where big data is growing by the day.

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How do the features of HTTP/2 improve the page speed of websites?

Let us look at the way the HTTP/2 features have improved the website experience by comparing HTTP1.1 and HTTP/2.

Server Push

HTTP1.1

When a browser is requesting for a web page when it connects to a web-server, the first file to be sent is the file’s HTML, and then the images. JavaScript files, CSS e.t.c, are requested by the web browser. In HTTP1.1 communication, there is a lot of back and forth that slows the loading of the web page.

HTTP/2

The web server in this version of the internet already knows the type of content needed by the browser, and the content will be “pushed” to the browser before a request is made, which saves a lot of time.

Multiplexing

HTTP1.1

The most notable challenge of this protocol is that it requests one file after the other on a single connection. To put it in other words, when a file is requested, it waits for a response, it is then downloaded, and the one is requested.

HTTP/2

When you are working on a page that has a lot of traffic with various requests, the multiplexing component allows the browser to transmit several files over one connection.

Header Compression

HTTP1.1

The requests and responses in this protocol are transmitted in text format which causes a lot of unnecessary bytes download.

HTTP/2

Compression is applied to each bit, and it is transmitted as a binary code which makes it more efficient to avoid time wasting when translating the information in the format the computer understands. The net result is smaller overheads compared to the one at HTTP1.1 which is not compressed. This process saves a lot of bandwidth. Since the page load speed is critical in mobile phones, this feature is even more essential.

https/2 websiteswappalyzer

How does HTTP/2 work?

As we saw earlier, HTTP/2 works to establish a connection between computers and servers to process information. Cybercriminals work to target banks and healthcare institutions. HTTPS plays a role in the protecting layer of the internet. HTTP/2 includes HTTPS encryption as it also adds to the overall security performance of the HTTPS.

HTTP/2 also has features like low resource consumption on the server side and the client side, fewer TLS handshakes, and improved capabilities in web sessions to eliminate any vulnerabilities. HTTP/2 is an enabler of secure digital communication in sensitive environments.

HTTP/2 requires the most recent and secure TLS version. All business owners, online communities, and webmasters need to ensure that they are using HTTPS on their websites as default.

The main benefits of HTTP/2

The uptake of the HTTP/2 version is majorly due to the technological advancements we have seen in the recent years. When we look at the internet consumers and online businesses, the speed is getting slower as the needs of the users rise and the number of gadgets and people connecting to the internet increases. To satisfy the size of media-rich content that consumers are using, HTTP/2 enhances the efficiencies in data communication.

Web performance

The capacity of the protocol to send and receive more data in a cycle per a client-server communication is a great advantage of the HTTP/2 protocol. The multiplexing feature of this protocol allows for more data transmission at the same time. When the overall performance of the web is high, it leads to customer satisfaction, better utilisation of resources, high productivity, better SEO, and many more benefits.

Mobile web performance

The current generation accesses the internet using the mobile phones. The era of smart-phones has made the options of the web services shift from the PC to the mobile. Users are now able to perform tasks like computing, reporting and even video conferences from their mobile phones away from the PC.

HTTP/2 has enabled the consumption of web content through the mobile phones. Features like header compression, multiplexing help to reduce latency in browsing the internet across mobile data networks to offer fewer bandwidths per user. Mobile users are also gaining better web experiences as we are now experiencing business going mobile.

Improved Mobile Experience

The mobile first strategy is a technique that most growing online businesses are using to reach out to the mobile users. The most significant constraint, however, is the hardware limitation on mobile devices. The constraint largely contributes to the time it takes for browsers to process requests made by mobile users. HTTP/2 slashes plenty of time and network latency in mobile devices to manageable levels.

Cheaper internet

Internet costs have dropped ever since it started. Growing the access of the internet and increasing the internet speed has always been the aim of tech advancements. HTTP/2 does promise to improve data communications and enhance throughput efficiencies. These advantages will work in favour of telco providers. The providers will be able to reduce operational expenses but maintain the high-speed internet standards. The tact will make service providers reduce prices for the low-end market, and initiate high-speed tiers that will work with the existing pricing model.

Media Rich Experience

Delivering media-rich content at lightning-fast page load speeds is what modern web experience is all about. Internet users always demand services and media-rich content be often updated. For internet start-up firms, the cost of delivering such demands to the public is not easy, especially when using a subscription-based solution.

HTTP/2 has tons of technology features and advantages to it, such as Header Compression that reduces several bytes of size overhead to transmit media-rich content between the servers and client.

Expansive Reach

Affordable internet in the densely populated African and Asian market is still under-served. Most internet service providers, unfortunately, only focus on densely populated urban and developed locations to invest and get the highest returns from the services offered.

The advantage of using HTTP/2 is that large-scale adoption of advanced application protocol will reduce the network congestion and spare bandwidth and resources that can be used for distant under-served locations in areas like Africa.

Innovation

The concept of high-performance web and innovation are some of the things that HTTP/2 embodies. Most of the cyber world uses HTTP/2 because Google did age HTTP1.x due to its SPDY protocol. In the near future, it is possible that all previous HTTP versions and SPDY will be replaced. Complex web optimisation hacks when eradicated will make HTTP/2 browser support a better solution for web developers to try and create online services, and websites with high performance.

Improved Technology Utilisation

The demand for client and server browsers to deliver media-rich content has increased significantly. Though web developers have tried to come up with ways around appropriate optimisation hacks, HTTP/2 is a more reliable solution. Server Push, Stream Dependencies, Multiplexing, and Header Compression are some of the features that contribute to making improved network utilisation an advantage of HTTP/2.

Security

Pas performance advantages, HTTP/2 also is great for security purposes. The HPACK algorithm allows it to go around any security threats that tend to target text-based application layer protocols. The commands in HTTP/2 are in binary.

HTTP/2 has a ‘Security by Obscurity” approach that protects sensitive data that is transmitted between servers and clients. There is full support for encryption that is part of the protocol. To get better protection on the site through encryption requires an improved version of the Transport Layer Security (TLS1.2).

Why HTTP/2 for SEO?

One of the SEO ranking factors for years has been speed. After the mobile-first index introduction, Google will likely check the speed on any mobile site. Any website that supports GoogleBot will be favoured in the speed department.

Over the years, sites that are created by CSS, or JavaScript are in the category of sites that increase the loading time. When visiting a website, we would like it to load in a few seconds and not a minute. When it happens, the likelihood of abandoning the site is high. The benefit of HTTP/2 to a site is that creates a better user experience, and it is fast.

Using HTTP/2 reduces the loading time for sites making the management of browsers and servers easier. Everyone should upgrade to HTTP/2, as there is no downside to upgrading.

Implementing HTTP/2 to the server

It is an easy task to implement HTTP/2, but the server in use can already be using HTTP/2. Visiting the site ‘HTTP2.Pro’ will be a sure way to know if the server we have uses HTTP/2. Consulting the hosting provider will hint on what other options are available. Content Delivery Network or CND offers a full HTTP/2 solution.

One way of implementing HTTP/2 in ensuring there is an HTTPS connection; otherwise all the effort put to connect HTTP/2 will be a waste of time. In case there is no HTTPS connection, an example would be to go to ‘Let’s Encrypt’ and get an SSL certificate that will help in securing a connection and make it possible to get an HTTP/2 upgrade.

Summary

HTTP/2 will dominate the cyber world, and reign supreme. HTTP/2, an application protocol will most likely follow its predecessor, the HTTP1.x, which transformed the cyber world by changing the data transmission capabilities. However, the technological superiority of HTTP/2 is greater than its predecessors.

Enabling HTTP/2 is just a small step that is the journey of improving and enhancing page speed. What we need to be aware of is that updating HTTP/2 is a simple process, and it can increase the speed of any site, even if in rankings there is no change. Speed is what users want, and the conversion rates will work great in favour of the website. HTTP/2 is here to stay; we should embrace it and try to make the necessary changes to the sites we use and own.

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers, an SEO agency in Melbourne and has been involved with SEO for over 15 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

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