HTTP/1.1 vs. HTTP/2: What’s the difference?
Posted by Paul Nesbitt on 03 January 2017 02:48 PM

Speed up your website with HTTP/2

HTTP/1.1 vs. HTTP/2: What’s the difference?

Whether you're new to web development or you're looking to make simple tweaks to improve the speed and performance of your website, we've put together the differences between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2. Read on to find out more.

What is HTTP/2?

Originally proposed by Tim Berners-Lee, HTTP was first released in 1991 to perform high-level data communication functions between web servers and clients. Although the HTTP/1.1 protocol has served the web for more than fifteen years, the technology is beginning to age. In 2015, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) came together to revise HTTP/1.1, and developed the next generation of the application protocol, to be known as HTTP/2.

What are the benefits of HTTP/2?

Loading a web page is resource intensive, as HTTP/1.1 only allows one outstanding request per TCP connection. With HTTP/2, multiplexing was introduced, allowing multiple requests at the same time, and therefore speeding up the process of delivering web pages and content.

The technology also means that only one connection to the server is used when loading a website, which remains open as long as the website is open. This reduces the amount of round trips that are required to set up multiple TCP connections.

Additional benefits include server pushing, allowing additional resources to be sent to a client for future use, and prioritisation, allowing requests to be assigned depending on their level of importance to a particular web page. Header compression with HPACK compressions is also included in HTTP/2 to reduce overhead.

What does HTTP/2 mean for SEO?

The chances are that you already know about Google offering a ranking boost for fast-loading websites. With HTTP/2, your website should load faster than when using the traditional HTTP/1.1 protocol, meaning that your website should enjoy boosted rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). As Google Chrome and Firefox only allow HTTP/2 over HTTPS, you're likely to enjoy an additional ranking boost from serving pages securely.

Is HTTP/2 supported by modern browsers?

With new technologies come new concerns over compatibility, and HTTP/2 is no exception. According to Can I Use, 78.33% of all modern browsers – including Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera – support HTTP/2. A great way to determine whether a switch to HTTP/2 will benefit your audience is to visit your Google Analytics account, click on Audience, then Technology and Browser & OS. Any visitors arriving without a compatible browser would still be served HTTP/1.1 even if you have switched to HTTP/2

Aside from browser compatibility, HTTP/2 is compatible with modern server software such as Apache, NGINX, and IIS, and many of the major content delivery networks (CDNs).

How can I see HTTP/2 in action?

If you’d like to see the difference in speed between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2, you can visit a website such as HTTP2Demo, which loads 200 small images to your browser and times the latency for your convenience. Such websites give proof that switching to HTTP/2 protocol makes sense – whether you’re running a small blog or a global enterprise.

There you have it – just some of the reasons why HTTP/2 is more effective for web development than the traditional HTTP/1.1 protocol. If you'd like to use HTTP/2 on your website, work with the web hosting experts at PAC Web Hosting today.


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