Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP is the communication protocol used by the World Wide Web that defines how messages are transmitted over the internet. HTTP/2 is the first major upgrade to HTTP/1 and is a major step forward in terms of website performance and speed of delivering content to browsers.
An Overview of HTTP/2
The major difference between HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 is the ability for browsers using HTTP/2 to accept more content from a website’s server at once than was possible with HTTP/1. Because modern websites are so resource-heavy, this was a drawback to HTTP/1 which browsers and websites tried to get around by either using multiple connections to get web content or “sharding” content so that it was served from secondary domains - for example images.website.com in addition to your main domain, www.website,com. These hacks exposed issues with the underlying protocol which were set out to be resolved with HTTP/2.
Some of the technical differences with HTTP/2 which lead to better performing websites include:
- It is binary instead of textual
- It is fully multiplexed which allows multiple request and response messages to be in transit at the same time
- It can use one connection to gather content instead of opening several connections
- It uses header compression to reduce the size of headers so they are delivered more quickly
Sites that use HTTP/2 have been proven to have faster load times than both HTTP1 and SPDY, a protocol developed by Google to speed up HTTP/1 traffic which informed the creation of HTTP/2.
Switching to HTTP/2
Modern browsers will accept traffic over the newer HTTP/2 protocol: In the USA, HTTP/2 ready web browsers account for 91.17% of all Internet users. In order to serve your site over HTTP/2 it must be fully encrypted with a TLS (SSL) certificate and all the content should be on one domain. Next you need to make sure your Content Delivery Network or hosting provider can support HTTP/2. If they can, you can then optimize your website for HTTP/2. Here are some useful resources on HTTP/2 and switching to it:
- Smashing Magazine - Getting Ready For HTTP/2: A Guide For Web Designers And Developers
- GitHub - FAQs on HTTP/2
- Tourque Mag - A Quick Overview of HTTP/2
section.io Can Help with your HTTP/2 Switch
Want a quick, easy way to switch your website to the better performing HTTP/2? All clients on section.io’s content delivery network automatically get SSL certificates for HTTPS and traffic served over HTTP/2, in addition to the website speed benefits seen with the use of our CDN and caching solution. Contact us if you’re interested in learning how section.io’s globally distributed servers and HTTP/2 support can drastically improve your website speed in a few easy steps.