A PaperStreet Primer on HTTP/2

Colorful vertical panels with the letters "H", "T", "T", and "P" displayed in white. Background colors are yellow, orange, brown, and red respectively. This vibrant design serves as a visual introduction to A PaperStreet Primer on HTTP/2.

HTTP/2, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol version 2, is the follow-up to HTTP/1.1, which currently handles server requests and responses across the web. Put simply, HTTP is a set of rules that controls the roads and information transfer between your local computer and remote servers, like where we host your PaperStreet website.

Compared to HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2 offers a suite of performance features. Perhaps most interesting is “multiplexing,” which allows multiple file requests in a single TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) connection. In the days of HTTP/1.1 this was not possible; one request sent to the remote server meant just one file retrieved. And because establishing each “road” to a remote computer takes time, web development efforts always tried to minimize the number of files requested by the page.

With HTTP/2, this constraint is a far lesser concern, as a single connection can request many files. Now we can, without fear, serve separate CSS (styling) files depending on the website template being loaded, deliver images separately without the use of a spritesheet, and more. HTTP/2 makes development life that little bit easier.

But even for the end user, HTTP/2 is a great technological step forward. This series of tests conducted by CSS-Tricks concludes that HTTP/2 performance impact is meaningful. Under circumstances that would slow HTTP/1.1 significantly, like where many files are being loaded, HTTP/2 provides more substantial improvements.

HTTP/2 server usage statistics as of May 2019 show 37% usage and rising – soon to be the majority. Web browsers widely supported by HTTP/2 (see caniuse.com), but even if a user’s older browser software does not, browsers fall back to HTTP/1.1. In other words, there’s no risk in implementing this upgrade.

Implementing HTTP/2

HTTP/2 does not require much development effort whatsoever. It is simply a server setting.

If your web host provides HTTP/2 support, find how to enable the setting. Perhaps you will have to contact your web host’s support team.

Even if you host does not provide HTTP/2 support, use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like CloudFlare can provide HTTP/2 delivery, as well. Implementing CloudFlare does take some developer know-how.

You should know that enabling HTTP/2 requires a working SSL certificate on the website. In other words, your website must be secure, showing off an “https” in front of the URL rather than “http.”

We’re On HTTP/2

The good news? All of PaperStreet’s hosted sites are both SSL-secured and provide HTTP/2 support.

HTTP/2 is a significant upgrade for the web in general and will only see greater adoption moving forward. Rest assured that PaperStreet is staying on top of these upgrades to keep your website running as well as it can.

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