Our favorite internet protocol, HTTP/1.1, is about to be replaced with HTTP/2. HTTP/2 makes for a much faster, secure web that aligns with our present-day experiences on the Internet.
Before we go into explaining the newer HTTP/2 protocol, it is important to understand what HTTP is, or soon to be “was”. HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is like the communications language of the Internet. It’s the language of the web that understands what content to fetch and display when you type a URL in your browser. And, it’s been around since the 90’s. The first documented version dating back all the way to 1991. By March 1996 40% of the browsers were HTTP/1.1 compliant and within 3 months, by June 1996, 65% were compliant. The standard was officially released in January of 1997.
What’s the Problem with HTTP/1.1?
So without getting too technical, there are several reasons why HTTP/1.1 is considered outdated. It literally is an age-old protocol. In fact, almost 20 years old! That’s old and certainly a lot older than most of the users on Pinterest and Instagram!
It’s slower in how it operates in the background fetching bits of data in a linear fashion. So, although the most up-to-date HTTP/1.1 browsers can fetch many elements like images, CSS, and JavaSciprt on your webpage, they are only able to do so in order. If something takes a long time to load, the other elements get delayed. It’s like a slow train running on a fast track. The fast train is only able to travel as fast as the slowest train on the same track.
Given the proliferation of modern web elements that are packed with video, images, numerous scripts and stylesheets, HTTP/1.1 is proving slow for the modern world.
HTTP/2 was first introduced back in 2012 and the Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF’s) HTTP Working Group has finalized its work on Hypertext Transfer Protocol 2.
In HTTP/2 traffic can flow both-ways in a multi-lane highway. So, elements that are taking longer to load can be queued while smaller packets of data can be transmitted and rendered. The waiting and sequential processing aren’t needed. The specification also recommends creating support for a 100 such streams in parallel making the web much, much faster.
When Can I Get My Hands on HTTP/2?
Chrome: Version 40
Firefox: Version 39+ with full specification support, incremental support in Firefox 36, 37 and 38.
Windows 10: Project Spartan browser that’s replacing Internet Explorer will include HTTP/2 support.