The Internet and Web Browsing Just Got Faster: What You Need to Know to Improve Your Web Experience
If you are using the latest version of your favourite web browser then you are probably already benefiting from the new web protocol called “HTTP/2”. This means your web browsing experience has just got a whole lot faster.
If you are wondering what all this HTTP/2 mumbo-jumbo means – then this calls for a brief history lesson on the web evolution:
Surfing online and viewing a website was made possible by communicating through a special language called HTTP which was invented by a British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. Surprisingly, the HTTP has remained relatively unchanged for the last 20+ years despite the web dramatically evolving over this period of time. There is thanks to Google who played a major part in spearheading the goal to speed up the web with the new HTTP/2 protocol because as history shows: it eventually became approved by Mr Nottingham who chairs the Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF) HTTP.
The web speedup in the HTTP/2 protocol is due to some significant improvements made to the older HTTP protocol. These can be listed as:
- Compression of Headers: Web communication requires the use of “Headers” which adds to the overall overhead with data transmissions. The new HTTP/2 protocol allows Headers to be compressed which results in eliminating much redundancies when exchanging data.
- Multiplexing of Data: Previously web communication that generally involves a “Request” and “Response” data exchange was performed over a single connection that was sequential in order (i.e. Request 1, Response 1, Request 2, Response 2 and so forth). The problem is that most websites are sophisticated and needs multiple web communication exchanges. However, establishing multiple simultaneous connections results in performance deteriorations. The new HTTP/2 solves this by providing the mechanism to allow multiple web communication exchanges to occur over a single connection which can occur simultaneously. The improvement occurs from removing the “sequential” state and from creating multiple connections, which is a cost.
- Binary form Data: Previously data was exchanged in a semi-textual form. Now it is purely in binary form that makes parsing information far easier and faster.
Enjoying a Faster Web Experience:
To enjoy the benefits of the faster web speed up through HTTP/2 depends on a few things including:
- Whether the web server behind the website you are visiting also supports HTTP/2 .
- The version of your web browser (if you have the latest version then it is already likely to support HTTP/2).
- The web browser (i.e. most browsers will only support HTTP/2 over secure Internet connections and reverts to the older, slower HTTP for plain-text connections. This was done deliberately and as an incentive to encourage those who host websites to upgrade their web servers to support the new HTTP/2 and force all communication to be performed over secured connections).
Browsers supporting HTTP/2 :
So far the list of browsers supporting HTTP/2 is listed as follows (this is not complete):
- IE 11 with partial support for HTTP/2 on Windows 10.
- Edge from version 12+
- Firefox from version 42+
- Chrome from version 45+
- Chrome for Android from version 47+
- Safari from version 9+ with partial support for HTTP/2 on OSX 10.11
- iOS Safari from version 9.2+
- Opera from version 34+
Web Browsers and Websites Data Exchange in HTTP/2 :
If you want to know if your browser is exchanging data in HTTP/2 form for the website you are visiting then you can install a plugin which shows a visual cue in the address bar (usually a green lightening bolt). Do a search for the “HTTP/2 and SPDY indicator” plugin from the Firefox or Chrome plugins library.
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