Why the new HTTP is different and why the world should care

Switching to HTTP/2

It will probably take several years for the whole Internet to switch over to HTTP/2. The new protocol only works if both the client and server support it.

For this reason, you can expect the old and new HTTP to coexist in parallel for the foreseeable future. Practically speaking, this dual functionality means web browsers will initially contact a server with the old version 1.1 and then use HTTP/2 if the server supports it.

Browsers currently use an encrypted HTTP message to initiate a request to upgrade to HTTP/2. If a server accepts the request, the connection automatically switches to HTTP/2. However, the use of TLS is not necessarily required for HTTP/2. According to the specification, the connection can also use an unencrypted HTTP/2 connection via TCP.

In an effort to strengthen encryption on the web, major browser manufacturers Mozilla and Google currently only support HTTP/2 in combination with TLS. The specification requires TLS 1.2 or later for TLS connections, and data compression with TLS is not allowed.

You can visit the Akamai website [7] to find out if your web browser already supports HTTP/2. If you visit the site with a suitable web browser, you will see an impressive demo that shows how quickly images load using HTTP/2 instead of HTTP/1.1.


HTTP/2 offers advantages for both users and web servers because both sides can save significant storage space and CPU time. Technologies for reducing the number of resources, for example, CSS Sprites and resource inlining, will no longer be necessary. The full impact of the new HTTP standard won't be known until its new functions are fully integrated into web APIs.

The Author

Kai Spichale is a software architect at Adesso AG. He deals with software architecture, API design, and NoSQL. He is also the author of numerous professional articles and a regular speaker at technical conferences.

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