HTTP Gets Major Overhaul


The first major revision of the hypertext transfer protocol has been finalized. HTTP/2 could mean pages are much faster to load, particularly on mobile devices.

Despite, or perhaps precisely because it’s such a fundamental part of the web, HTTP hasn’t had a significant update since changes to the current 1.1 standard in 1999.

The proposed HTTP/2 is a major overhaul. The current HTTP has major restrictions of how browsers can request data from websites: in simplified terms, a browser can only make one request at a time, and only to one site. That can mean a lengthy series of exchanges when loading complex pages.

Again in simplified terms, HTTP/2 allows a page to serve multiple requests to the same browser simultaneously. It also allows a browser to query multiple sites at once.

In an excellent Q&A guide, the Guardian notes that one of the biggest effects will be on media-heavy sites that a user visits for the first time and thus doesn’t have cached.

It will also be a major boost for mobile browsing where the slower connection speeds mean that the time spent waiting for requests to go from the device to a website is more significant.

It’s up to individual sites and browser manufacturers to incorporate HTTP/2, but the change won’t have to involve any user intervention. It’s completely backwards compatible and, other than any faster loading times, users shouldn’t notice any operational difference depending on what version of HTTP is running.

The revised protocol is partly based on an experimental Google protocol, SPDY, already available in many browsers. Google says it will replace SPDY with HTTP/2 in Chrome by early next year.

(Image credit: “Internet1” by Rock1997 – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons –