Given the fast-paced development and progress that we have when it comes to the Internet and Internet-connected devices, it can almost be too hard to imagine how old the World Wide Web really is. That reality check might soon become a topic now that the Web bells have started ringing. IETF HTTP Working Group chair Mark Nottingham has just announced on his blog that HTTP/2 has been approved and is on its way to become the new standard, following HTTP/1.1 which was adopted way, way back in 1999.
HTTP could perhaps be considered as the life blood of the Web. The HyperText Transfer Protocol is the standard that defines how web content should travel over the wires. But, as you can imagine, a lot has happened in the 16 years that HTTP/1.1 was the ruling version. While the demand for content grew, HTTP was not able to quickly adapt and ran into both technical and formal limitations.
It was those limitations that spurred protocols like SPDY by Google. SPDY, as the name would imply, tries to work around HTTP’s limits in order to deliver content faster and with more security. But rather than keep SPDY to themselves, Google approached the HTTP Working Group with the goal of incorporating it into the upcoming standard. And indeed, HTTP/2 carries a lot of that, to the point that Google saw it fit to actually drop SPDY in favor of the new standard when it comes out.
So what will HTTP/2 bring to the web? For developers, the API (application programming interface) remains the same familiar API of HTTP but with important new features. HTTP/2 requests now have multiplexing in order to bunch multiple requests together to be sent as one bulk instead of a myriad individual ones. The protocol will also use fewer connections in order to relieve server and network loads. All in all, it means a hopefully faster web that uses less resources.
It’s not a completely done deal, however, but it’s almost there. HTTP/2 is still on its way to the Request-For-Comments (RFC) Editor where it will be assigned an RFC number (for reference, HTTP/1.1 is RFC 2616). That means it will go through an editorial process before finally being published as the new Web standard.