So What’s The Big Deal With HTTP/2?

HTTP/2 is the second major version of the HTTP network protocol which was originally created in 1997. HTTP/2 has been in production for a number of years but was made available to the public earlier this year, having been published in May 2015. There was overwhelming agreement towards the standardization effort of HTTP/2 across most major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, IE 11, Safari, and Silk all have jumped aboard. It is expected that by the end of the year most other major browsers will have adopted HTTP/2 as well. As of November 2015, 2.3% of the top 10 million websites is supported by it and this number is only expected to grow rapidly.

Any Expected Hiccups With The System?

Sadly, when most new things are being released for the first time there are going to be some hurdles that need to be overcome. HTTP/2 is no different in this regard, and fortunately many of the problems are known and simply need proper solutions. Some of these concerns and issues revolve around:

  • Supporting common existing use cases of HTTP
  • Maintaining compatibility with HTTP 1.1
  • Multiplexing multiple requests over single TCP connection
  • New server push technologies
  • Data compression of HTTP headers
  • Overall decreasing latency and increase page load speeds
  • Options needed to allow clients and servers to elect to use HTTP 1.1, 2.0, or any other potentially non-HTTP protocol.
  • HTTP/2 protocol does not support opportunistic encryption which has ong been is a measure against passive monitoring.

What Are The Benefits To Expect?

  • Existing websites don’t need to change how they currently work and HTTP/2 will help to take advantage of the new features which will increase speed.
  • All high level syntax between HTTP 2.0 and 1.1 will remain the same.
  • Servers will be able to “push” content and respond with data for more queries than clients have requested by allowing servers to supply data it anticipates a web browser will need to render without actually having to wait for the browser to examine it first.
  • Other performance improvements revolve around SPDY.
  • Multiplexing requests and responses help avoid head-of-line blocking problems persistent in HTTP 1 header compression and prioritization requests.
  • Encryption for most browsers is forcibly mandatory as they’ve stated they will only support HTTP/2 over TLS. You may recall earlier this year Google giving boosts to ranking for sites whose URL’s were HTTPS… this is where that stemmed from. An effort to get everyone on board essentially.
    • Should be noted that this component of HTTP/2 has come under heavy criticism for two primary reasons. 1.) That the forced encryption comes with additional computing costs which may slow performance down.  And 2.) Many HTTP applications have no real use for HTTPS and is not necessary.

So What Now?

In the end most everyone should expect that HTTP/2 will be taking over. It is still quite in its infancy so early adoption is not entirely necessary. However eventually you should imagine your site will have to make the switch at some point. Whether you do it now or wait until some of the bugs are ironed out is up to you… but don’t wait too long. Eventually it’s imagined Google will begin to penalize sites that fail to use it, just as they’ve given early adopters some ranking benefits for implementing it. Furthermore, it should help to overall improve online performance and security… which is something I imagine we can all get behind.