The HTTP protocol has remained largely unchanged since 1999. A new standard has been launched that is set to change the way websites function and how users interact with content. HTTP/2 promises faster load speeds and more secure connections. The new protocol specification has been designed to tackle the problem of websites increasing in size due to increased demand for interactive and streaming content, while the internet hasn't accelerated along with the growth in size.
Many things have changed since the early days of the internet. Users are now just as likely to visit your site from a mobile device as they are from a desktop. Netflix has been forced to pay for increased bandwidth from ISPs in order to serve its content to subscribers; which users expect to be available on all devices and at any time. Loading content over a mobile data connection still has a higher latency than that of a fixed broadband line, despite the promise of faster speeds on 4G. HTML/2 speeds up the process, delivering a more stable user experience on both mobile and desktop devices.
A lot of press mentions have focused on the fact that HTTP/2 forces a secure connection. The protocol itself does not actually require a secure connection, however most browsers will only support HTTP/2 over TLS, making HTTP/2 websites secure by default.
One of the biggest benefits of HTTP/2 is its ability to multiplex streams. This means you'll be able to load a large volume of requests and responses in parallel, speeding up your page load speed. One method that is commonly used to speed up HTTP/1.1 websites is to combine HTML files and CSS stylesheets into a single file. As HTTP/2 allows for you to load multiple requests simultaneously, the benefits of merging HTML files and stylesheets becomes negligible.
HTTP/2 introduces a functionality called server push, which makes it possible to send files to browsers without the browser needing to send a request. This should in theory speed up the delivery of web pages even further.
When Will I Need to Implement HTTP/2?
HTTP/2 is available now and has been implemented by a handful of large organisations, with Twitter being one of the first companies to adopt the technology. HTTP/2 is supported by the latest version of the most common web browsers, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Microsoft Edge. If you set out to build a new website, you'll need to ensure your site is compatible with both HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2 or at least be aware that you will need to upgrade your site to support HTTP/2 in the near future.