10 Things Your Business Needs To Know About HTTP/2

HTTP/2 will be the first major update to HTTP since 1999. The arrival of the software will speed up browsing and make the online world a more secure place, but are there any business implications involved?

It’s been billed as the “future of the internet”, and in essence it is already upon us. Whilst the internet has changed dramatically in a short space of time, over the last two decades HTTP (the workhouse of the World Wide Web) has remained stable. The update will take out the old and bring in the new, and in this post Soap Media take a look at what it means for businesses.

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A Brief History Of HTTP

HTTP is the foundation of data communication for the internet – it’s the reason we’ve been able to publish this, why you’re reading this, and why HTTP/2 is such a big deal.

Over the course of its illustrious history there have been many notable moments:

  • “Hypertext” coined by technology pioneer Ted Nelson in 1965.
  • Tim-Berners-Lee of CERN invents the original HTTP and HTML. The World Wide Web is proposed in 1989.
  • HTTP/0.9 released in 1991.
  • HTTP/1.0 released in 1996.
  • HTTP/1.1 released in 1999 – the final update until this year.
  • HTTPbis Working Group forms to revise HTTP/1.1 specifications – 2007.

Now HTTP/2 is here and it is well timed. The problems with HTTP/1.1 include performance which doesn’t match the full bandwidth utilisation, web design becoming far more complex than in 1999, the consumption of resources is far higher for server and client, and cacheability of resources has suffered as a result.

The time has come for HTTP/2, which didn’t arrive with much fanfare as it was slowly rolled out and will be adopted at a leisurely pace over the coming years. Soap Media considered the implications of the update, and have included 10 key things your business can expect.

1. What Is HTTP/2?

In case there’s still any confusion, HTTP/2 is the new version of HTTP, which hasn’t been updated since 1999. It’s based on Google’s SPDY, software which speeds up web page loading times and the overall browsing experience for users.

HTTP/2, then, will take HTTP/1.1 and replace it with a new standard of quality. The specifications were published in May 2015.

2. HTTP/2 Develops On Its Predecessor’s Shortcomings

HTTP/2 will provide internet users with high speeds, online safety, and a streamlined experience. It’s about bringing HTTP/1.1 up to speed with what the World Wide Web is capable of, and this is what the new update will deliver.

The Internet Engineering Taks Force (responsible for the launch of HTTP/2 on May 14th) said: “HTTP/2 enables a more efficient use of network resources and a reduced perception of latency by introducing header field compression and allowing multiple concurrent exchanges on the same connection. It also introduces unsolicited push of representations from servers to clients.”

3. You Won’t Need To upgrade Your Site

Despite the arrival of HTTP/2, your business will not need to change your website or the applications you run. The application codes, along the the HTTP APIs, won’t be altered by the upgrade. The only difference is your services will perform at a better rate. This includes using fewer resources.

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4. It Brings A Myriad Of Improvements: Multiplexing,  Concurrency, Stream Dependencies, Header Compression, & Server Push

Yes, there are some big benefits on the way. On the same TCP connection many requests will be sent in rapid succession, with responses received out of order. This is a big improvement as multiple connections between clients and a server isn’t necessary. The client can also indicate to a server which resources are the most important.

Additionally, the size of HTTP headers will be reduced by a considerable amount, and the serve will be able to send resources clients haven’t even requested.

5. Think About How You Will Approach HTTP/2

HTTP/2 will become increasingly prevalent over the course of the next few years, so your IT department should take into consideration numerous factors such as:

Encrypting, optimising the TCP layer, removing the best practices from HTTP/1.1 to accommodate HTTP/2, and making the decision when you want to design your software and applications around HTTP/2’s capabilities. Optimising for HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2 connections is likely to be a difficult issue for many companies, as browsers will be transitioning between the new version and old, so consult with your IT department for further insights.

6. It’s A Money Saving Opportunity

HTTP/2 will likely lead to cheaper requests, improved networking, overall better server friendliness, and cache pushing (which will stop a trip acquiring HTML, linked stylesheets, and CSS).

7. Your HTTPS Status Is Unaffected

HTTPS has been providing added security for consumers: banks, shops, email services, and businesses have been using it to safeguard information. HTTP/2 will fully support for encryption as HTTP/1.1 does – it won’t change your security features. HTTP/2, however, will need an improved TLS1.2 (strandardised since 2008).

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8. Your Customers Won’t Have To Do Anything

From a consumer perspective nothing will be changing – no new equipment needs to be purchased, and there won’t be complex new rules to wade through. All that will be noticeable is an increased browser speed, whilst security will be also be improved.

9. List Of Browser & Server Support

Many browsers have already declared their support for HTTP/2, including:

  • Chrome
  • Google Chrome Canary
  • Chrome for iOS
  • Firefox
  • Internet Explorer (although this is being replaced soon by Microsoft, it’s highly likely its successor will also support HTTP/2).
  • Opera
  • Safari

The HTTP/HTTPS servers which support HTTP/s are:

  • IIS
  • OpenLiteSpeed 13.11 and 1.4.8
  • LiteSpeed Web Server 5.0
  • Jetty 9.3
  • Akamai Edge Servers
  • Apache 2.4.12

10. Be Patient

All of the improvements will take time to come to complete fruition. It’s important businesses remember HTTP/2 will gradually integrate with the World Wide Web. There may be teething problems to begin with, so be patient and wait for the full range of benefits to come into effect. It will certainly be worth the wait. 

Written by
Adam Davis
Adam Davis

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