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July 23, 2015

HTTP/2 – A Faster, Better Web

As you may already know, HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and it is the foundation of the World Wide Web. The IETF HTTP Working Group has been hard at work on the first major revision of HTTP since 1999. This revision, known as HTTP/2, has been completed, submitted, and approved. And if you’re worried about having to change your Web applications and websites in order to be compatible with HTTP/2, worry no longer. HTTP/2 shares the foundation of HTTP/1. Most of the differences between the two are in how requests are processed, and how cache is handled. HTTP/2 will make your sites faster, and work right out of the gate. Over the coming months, web browsers like Chrome and Firefox will begin supporting HTTP/2, and this means we aren’t far away from a faster Internet. 

The Need For HTTP/2

Modern websites are becoming increasingly resource intensive. Many sites have large image galleries, or automatically play videos that span the entire width of the screen. Add in other advanced features like animation effects, responsive Web elements that adapt to screen sizes, and sign-in portals and you can see why many sites take a long time to load. These features look great and function well, but a long load time can hamper what would otherwise be an outstanding user experience. So when moving away from HTTP/1, there is a need to reduce latency. This reduction of latency is one of the main features of HTTP/2.

Multiplexing And Improved Deliveries

So what is it about HTTP/2 that will make websites load faster? It is a feature known as multiplexing. HTTP has an ordered request structure, which basically means loading requests for files are blocked until their place is reached in the queue. HTTP/1.1 did attempt to improve this with something known as “pipelining.” With pipelining, requests can still be blocked if they are behind a large, or slow loading request. This bottlenecks the site load. With HTPP/1.1, pages load multiple times across multiple connections. This can hinder performance in a big way, causing a cascade of blocked requests. With HTTP/2 and multiplexing, multiple files can be requested at the same time. These requests can now come in out of order thanks to multiplexing. HTTP/2 also improves the prioritization of requests, And not only this, one connection can be used to load requests. This avoids the cascading blocks associated with multiple page loads from multiple sources.

Compression And Cache

Other advantages of HTTP/2 are header compression and server pushes. HTTP/2 is a combination of two specifications, Hypertext Transfer Protocol 2, and HPACK. HPACK is the header compression specification used in HTTP/2. Web page headers, with all their internal and external resources, will be much smaller and faster to load. Also, the server can send information that hasn’t even been requested yet, which developers will surely take advantage of when optimizing their sites for performance. With HTTP/2, cache handling is improved as well. More specifically, churning is improved. Churning refers to the ratio of information that has been cached versus the amount of information that still needs to be loaded.

A New Era Of Web Performance

We will witness a new era of web performance and potential with HTTP/2. Not having to worry as much about requests will free up developers to create sites that are more powerful than previously possible. This is an exciting time for the World Wide Web in terms of both users and developers.


Todd Fiore is CIO and Co-Founder of Tech 2U, headquartered in Sacramento, California. Tech 2U provides remote, in shop, and onsite computer repair to residential and business customers. Tech 2U also offers managed IT services.