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The first major change to HTTP in 16 years: HTTP/2

JAXenter Editorial Team
HTTP image via Shutterstock

The Web is still based on HTTP 1.1 – and thus on a log of the last millennium. It’s high time that the system introduced in 1999 got a major overhaul, which is rumoured to be on the way with the almost-ready HTTP/2.

The time is soon upon us: HTTP/2 is just about done. The amount of data contained in the Web’s protocol that needs to be moved after accumulating for the past 16 years is no easy task, however it’s what we can expect with HTTP/2 now nearing completion.

Close to completion

The chairman of the HTTP Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Mark Nottingham reported the news on his blog, with the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) formally accepting the HTTP/2 and HPACK specifications.

The next step is to send these specifications to the RFC Editor, where they’re assigned RFC numbers and go through the eventual editorial process that gets them published. Nottingham is confident that publication is imminent, however, the era of the venerable HTTP 1.1 isn’t over – HTTP/2 should represent an alternative that offers opportunities for the more efficient use of resources.

A number of contributors have been handed praise for their efforts, with a particular shoutout for the Japanese HTTP/2 community – Nottingham went on to say their contributions were of “extremely high quality and consistency”.

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Work on HTTP/2 began in late 2012, when a corresponding design was submitted based on the Google SPDY protocol. SPDY is already implemented in a variety of browsers such as Chromium, Firefox and Opera, and for HTTP/2 will now include a reduction in the number of requests that substantial data compression options, as well as facilitating the HTTP/2 server push (server-initiated data transfers).

SPDY does not replace HTTP; it modifies the way HTTP requests and responses are sent over the wire. However, nginx and Apache don’t support HTTP/2, although with a basis on SPDY, nginx support might not be too far away.

On top of the news regarding server push, the new standard brings a host of benefits to one of the Web’s core technologies, such as faster page loads, longer-lived connections and more items arriving sooner.

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