What is HTTP/2 and Does Your Website Need It?

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:

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.

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