{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

While it can be difficult to predict what a new year will bring in the fast-moving world of the internet, one technical development should be on the radar of every organization in 2016: HTTP/2.

Here's everything you need to know about HTTP/2 and why your organization should look to adopt it in the near future.

What is HTTP/2?

HTTP/2 is the new version of the HTTP protocol that is used to transfer data across the web. The current version, HTTP 1.1, became a standard in 1997.

Obviously, the web has changed a lot since then and HTTP 1.1's shortcomings have become more and more apparent over the years.

Several years ago, Google set out to address some of these shortcomings by developing SPDY, a protocol that modifies HTTP to improve page load times.

Major browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, added support for SPDY, but less than 3% of websites are using SPDY because it requires installation of a web server module.

HTTP/2 is based on SPDY and will bring many of SPDY's improvements to the masses. The most notable of those improvements are:

  • Multiplexing support, which allows clients to transfer data over a single connection.
  • Prioritization, which allows the most important content to be transferred first.
  • Built-in compression.

HTTP/2 retains the most familiar components of HTTP 1.1, such as methods (GET, POST, etc.) and headers.

Why does HTTP/2 matter?

HTTP/2 has significant user experience implications, and may also become a key SEO consideration.

1. User experience implications

Fast page load speed is critical to delivering a superb user experience. Even on tablet and mobile devices, users expect pages to load within seconds.

Unfortunately, many organizations struggle with page load speed because their sites require lots of assets like CSS, JavaScript and images to be served.

HTTP 1.1's limitations can make serving these assets very costly, but HTTP/2's improvements have the ability to increase page load speeds without any application-level changes.

As Akamai's HTTP/2 demo demonstrates, HTTP/2 can reduce load times significantly.

2. SEO implications

In a Google Webmaster Central Hangout in November, Google employee John Mueller revealed that GoogleBot will soon support HTTP/2.

As Search Engine Land's Patrick Stox explained, this has SEO implications because site speed is a ranking factor:

With GoogleBot adding support for HTTP/2, websites that support the protocol will likely see an additional rankings boost from speed.

On top of that, with Chrome and Firefox only supporting HTTP/2 over HTTPS, many websites that have not yet upgraded to HTTPS may see an additional boost in rankings when they do.

Additionally, Stox suggests that at some point, Google could make use of HTTP/2 itself as a ranking factor the way it has HTTPS, so coupled with the potential user experience benefits, HTTP/2 is a no brainer.

Adopting HTTP/2

A number of popular web servers have implemented HTTP/2. Specifically, Apache supports HTTP/2 as of version 2.4.17 and Nginx supports HTTP/2 as of version 1.9.5.

Microsoft offers HTTP/2 support under the Windows 10 and Server 2016 Technical Preview. 

In most cases, organizations with the ability to upgrade their web servers will be able to adopt HTTP/2 with minimal hassle and simple configuration.

Gotchas

Not surprisingly, not every organization can adopt HTTP/2 and take advantage of what it has to offer by installing a web server that has HTTP/2 support.

Many of the techniques created to address HTTP 1.1's shortcomings are actually problematic when using HTTP/2.

As web developer Matt Wilcox explained, widely-used optimizations that are problematic in an HTTP/2 world include:

  • Image sprites
  • CSS and JavaScript file concatenation
  • Use of cookie-less domains to serve assets
  • Domain sharding for asset hosting

Before adopting HTTP/2, organizations will want to "undo" these optimizations to ensure that they are not negating HTTP/2's benefits.

Fortunately, implementing these optimizations often requires considerable effort and in some cases, application-level changes, so once HTTP/2 is ubiquitous, many organizations will find that their optimization efforts can be directed elsewhere, such as to their application backends.

Patricio Robles

Published 4 January, 2016 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2401 more posts from this author

Comments (0)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.