The Web's About To Get Faster
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Hypertext Transfer Protocol version 2 is a done deal. According to the chair of the HTTP working group within the Internet Engineering Task Force, the draft specification for HTTP/2, as it's known, was sent off to the Request for Comments (RFC) Editor, where it will officially become an Internet standard. The same delivery included the draft specs for HPACK, the format for header field compression to be used in HTTP/2.
HTTP is the protocol used to power the World Wide Web by defining how hypertext is to be formatted and transmitted and how Web servers and browsers should respond to those commands. A URL typed into a browser, for example, becomes an HTTP command to the server telling it to retrieve the given Web page.
Currently, the most common version of HTTP in use is HTTP/1.1. The HTTP/2 standard is expected to speed up loading of Web pages by transporting data between browser and server. The new protocol is backward-compatible with the older protocol, and, importantly, it'll actually speed up activities by carrying more data in a single pass with each request to load the requested Web site. This is especially important for smart phone access, which now accounts for about 33 percent of all Web access, up from 25 percent a year ago, according to statistics from StatCounter.
Once the new standards are published, sites and hosting companies can choose to start implementing them. Google, for example, which was a driving force behind the new standard, will begin implementing it in Chrome next year. Doing that requires a replacement of SPDY ("speedy"), an open networking protocol the company helped develop for transporting content over the Web with reduced latency. According to Google, SPDY formed the basis of HTTP/2.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.