January 13, 2016 - Comments Off on What is HTTP/2 and what does it mean for me?

What is HTTP/2 and what does it mean for me?

HTTP/2 is an update to the existing HTTP/1.1 standard. HTTP is the protocol that computers use to communicate over the Internet, and it’s beginning to creak a little bit. The current HTTP/1.1 standard was written in 1990, and hasn’t been updated since 1999, and a lot has happened in that time.

Keep in mind that HTTP/1.1 isn’t bad just because it is old. TCP, IP, and SMTP are all examples of 30+ year old technology that is still going strong and work fairly well. The problem with HTTP/1.1 is that it was designed with certain assumptions about the network that are no longer true today. This means that HTTP/1.1 does a poor job of fully utilising your network connection.

How does it work?

In HTTP/1.1, conversations look like this (Technical terms in brackets):
1. Browser: “Hi website, I’m Browser at .” (HTTP Request)
2. Server: “Hi Browser, I’m online and can show you a webpage” (200 response code)
3. Browser: “That’s great, show me it” (HTTP Request 2)
4. Server: “Cool, here’s our HTML – more to follow”
5. Browser: “Got it, thanks”
6. Server: “Great, here’s our CSS – more to follow”
7. Browser: “Got it, thanks”
8. [Process repeats until website is loaded]
9. Browser: “Okay, that page was great, but can I see the About page instead?” (HTTP Request)
10. Repeat from step 2

In HTTP/2, conversations look like this:
1. Browser: “Hi website, I’m a Browser at .” (HTTP Request)
2. Server: “Cool, here’s our HTML, CSS, JS and Images – I’ll send the important details first.” (200 Response code)
3. Browser: “Got it, thanks”
4. Browser: “Okay, that page was great, but can I see the About page instead?” (HTTP Request)
5. Repeat from step 2

What’s in it for me?

  • Connection multiplexing and less “back and forth” between the server and browser is a huge improvement in load speed, which of course Google loves.
  • Content prioritisation lets you push important information to the client first, meaning you bring your most important content to the forefront, while the less important stuff loads in the background.
  • Lower header-size means your site takes less bandwidth to load which increases speed, AND reduces outgoing bandwidth consumption.
  • HTTPS becoming best practice means that that it’s as good a time as any to get your site secured. This is great both for your ranking scores, but for your customer’s peace-of-mind.

How do I get it?

Firstly, if you’re not already using HTTPS site-wide, now is the time to do it. HTTP/2 is designed to work best over a secure connect, and Google agrees: increasingly taking security into account as a KPI for ranking.

Secondly, you’re probably closer to HTTP/2 support than you think; 66% of websites are running on either the NGINX or Apache2 platforms, and both natively support the change (Apache requires you to enable an extension mod_spdy) and IIS will follow after the release of Windows Server 2016. Check with your Sysadmin or hosting provider to find out when/if they’ll be making the upgrade.

Note: Bloom will be including HTTP/2 support for all clients starting 2016 on the Apache2 and NGINX platforms, with IIS support following by the end of Q2 2016.

If you need support or want to know more about HTTP/2 get in touch with the Bloom team.

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