HTTP/1.1 is the backbone of the internet, for the past 16 years it has dutifully carried out the tasks which make the internet as we know it possible. In that time, the way that we build and view websites has changed, but the underlying protocol which handles the exchange of information between the server and the browser has remained the same since 1999.
That no longer seems to be the case, CloudFlare have enabled the recently announced HTTP/2 across all websites on their network in the first upgrade of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol in over 16 years, and the best part? You don’t need to do a thing to reap the benefits.
Here at Rubious we have been using CloudFlare to manage the performance and security of our websites for many years now. This new update means, effective immediately, our new and existing clients will benefit from these changes.
Sounds great, but what does it mean?
HTTP/1.1 was designed during a time of much simpler websites. Over the years there has been an increasing demand for complex, rich and responsive content. HTTP/2 is the first major response to our growing need for a more robust foundation on which to meet that demand.
This new protocol means a whole host of improvements to our sites. The main improvement is Multiplexing.
What is Multiplexing?
At a basic level, using HTTP/1.1 is like going to a supermarket to buy a single item, taking it back home, going back to the shop for the next item, and repeating until your weekly shop is done. Multiplexing gives you a shopping trolley so you can pick up everything you need in one trip.
Websites are made up of tens, (or in some cases hundreds) of assets like images, fonts, stylesheets or template files. Under HTTP/1.1 your browser could only have a limited number of connections open at a time. These assets would then be retrieved sequentially, before the browser retrieves the next batch of assets. Needless to say, this is a major cause of loading delays on websites today.
HTTP/2 allows the browser to request all of these assets in parallel so that they are all downloaded at the same time and are not reliant on previous assets to finish downloading before they can begin.
If you’d like to see a demo of this in action then please take a look at CloudFlare’s demo page:
There are many other updates to the protocol which go into greater detail about the perks that our users will start to benefit from. If you are interested in learning more then please check out the link below to view the full breakdown of the update.