Using HTTP/2 For Your Website: What Does This Mean? - Semalt Shares Secrets
In recent years, the Internet has become highly entrenched in our everyday lives. We find it so meaningful that we were taxing its existing method of communicating data. Ever heard of The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Yes, there's such a thing. This body came up with a new protocol to fix the errors of its predecessor. This protocol is called HTTPS/2.
For the most part, using HTTPS/2 is a simple and straight forward process. Depending on your server provider, some providers have already implemented for their servers using CENTOS 6/7. This means 99% of the servers have been used.
If you run a shared server hosting plan, and you are unlucky and land on one of the few servers that are using an older version, you should immediately request to be transferred to a newer server. All new VPS and direct servers include the HTTP/2 feature.
What is the protocol?
Whether HTTP/2 or HTTP/1, the term protocol is universal. Protocols can be defined as a fine set of rules that govern the way data communication flows between clients (which is the web browser used by the internet users to request information) and the server (which are the machines that contain the requested information).
- Protocols usually consist of three primary parts: they are the Header, Payload, and Footer. The header comes before the Payload and contains information such as the source and the destination addresses and the type and size of data regarding the Payload.
- The Payload is then the actual information that is to be transmitted using the protocol.
- The Footer then follows the Payload and works as a control field, which maps out the route for the client-server request. This is linked to the intended recipients along with the header to ensure that the Payload data is transmitted free of errors.
Yes, we know, it sounds so difficult. Look at it this way. Imagine how the post mail services work. You send letters which are the Payloads in envelopes, which are headers with the destination address written on them, then you seal glue and add the postal stamp, which is the Footer. For your mail to be successfully delivered, all these factors need to be in place, which is what the protocol process is for. However, when we discuss the protocol, we change the nature of these letters into digital forms. With the internet, digital information is sent using 1s and 0s.
Initially, the HTTPS protocol was made up of basic commands such as:
- Get: to retrieve information from the servers.
- POST: this was used to deliver the requested information to the client.
These simple and yet boring set of commands essentially formed the foundation to construct other more complex protocols as well.
What is HTTP/2, and what makes it so important?
HTTP/2 is an update to the hypertext transport protocol (HTTP). You can call it version 2 of HTTPS created by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). HTTPS, on its own, is the process or method of communication between your web browser and your web server. Now, using the HTTP/2 protocol promises faster and more secure access to your website.
Currently, there is a de facto version of HTTP, which is HTTP/1.1. HTTP/1.1 was a standard for serving web pages, but as technology evolved and time passed, problems began to arise with its use. This was likely to happen because websites became significantly more complicated and so certain improvements had to be made.
The main issue was that HTTP/1.1 began experiencing increased latency as webpages increased in size, and the objects portrayed in these webpages also increased in number. While it was clear that many things could be done to reduce the size of web pages but a more productive solution will be to develop HTTP/2, which is an efficient handle to carry the issues that come with heavy webpages, as well as improve other lapses such as providing better security by using Transport Layer Security (TLS).
The primary goal of the HTTP/2 is to meet three basic needs of Internet users, and they are simplicity, high performance, and robustness. The new protocol is able to achieve all three goals by introducing capabilities that reduce the latency in processing the browser's request. It does all these using several advanced techniques such as Multiplexing, Compression, Request prioritization, and server push.
Other mechanisms have also been introduced, such as flow control, upgrade, and error handling is also used as enhancements to the HTTP protocol. This helps developers because it ensures they maintain the high-performance standard and resilience for web-based applications.
This collective system allows servers to respond efficiently with more content than originally requested by clients. This method eliminates the need for a web user to intervene by continuously requesting information until the web page is fully loaded onto the browser.
For example, imagine a server's Push capabilities with HTTP/2. This allows the server to respond with a page's full contents other than the information already available on the website's cache.
HTTP/2 came as a change in design where web developers could maintain interoperability and compatibility with HTTP/1.1.
What are the features, benefits and upgrades of HTTP/2?
1. Multiplexed streams
The bi-directional sequence of text format frames which are sent over the HTTP/2 protocol are exchanged between the server and the client, and we call this the "stream". Earlier iterations of the HTTP protocol were strong enough to carry only one stream at a time, and there was still a time delay between stream transmissions.
When you are receiving tons of media content via individual streams that come one after another, this time-laps become physically annoying. HTTP/2 comes with changes that have helped establish a new binary framing layer to address such concerns.
This new HTTP/2 layer allows clients and servers to disintegrate the HTTP payload into smaller, easily manageable, and independent interleaved sequences of frames. This information then gets reassemble at the other end, and it appears perfectly.
The binary frame formats enable a smooth exchange of multiple, simultaneously opening, and independent bidirectional sequences without any latency between the successive streams. This approach opens up HTTP/2 to a wide array of benefits such as:
- The parallel multiplexed requests and responses do not get in each other's way.
- HTTP/2 connection uses a single TCP connection to ensure effective network resource utilization despite the fact that multiple data streams are being transmitted.
- You can do without applying unnecessary optimization hacks. By optimization, hacks were referring to image spirits, concatenation, and domain sharding, amongst others.
- Reduced latency.
- Faster web performance and better SEO ranking.
- Reduced OpEx and CapEx in running your network and IT resources.
2. Server push
HTTP/2 allows your host server to send additional information that is stored as a cache even though the client didn't request this. This feature anticipates the future request of web visitors and stores additional cacheable information for a better user experience. For example, if a client requests for resource A, and it is understood that resource B is referenced with the requested file, the server push can help your server push B along with A instead of waiting for the appropriate client request. Then, B is pushed to the cache for future use, and this mechanism saves time by cutting short the request responds round trip, reducing network latency.
The server push aspect of HTTP/2 also brings the following benefits:
- The client can save pushed resources in the cache.
- The caches saved can be reused.
- The server can multiplex pushed resources along with the originally requested information within the TCP connection.
- The server can prioritize pushed resources.
- Web users can choose to decline pushed cache resources.
- Clients can also limit the number of pushed streams that come concurrently.
3. Binary protocol
In terms of capabilities and attributes such as transforming a text protocol to a binary protocol, HTTP/2 is perfect. By using binary commands, HTTP/2 can complete request-response circles quicker and more efficiently. By sending these commands in binary form, HTTP/2 eases complications with framing and simplifying the implementation of the user's commands, which were previously complex because they had both text and optional spaces. Binary protocols contribute to the following benefits to HTTP/2:
- Low overhead phrasing data.
- Lower chances of encountering errors.
- Lighter network footprint.
- Effective network source utilization.
- Security issues that arise because of the textual nature of HTTP/1 are eliminated.
- Reduced network latency.
With these, we only begin to scratch the surface of what websites stand to benefit from using HTTP/2. Semalt can help you ensure your website runs on HTTP/2 and ensure that you enjoy as many benefits as possible from using HTTP/2. One good news is that upgrading to HTTP/2 is not a difficult process, and you can have it done by simply asking your server host to move you to an upgraded server.