HTTP/2 – what is it, what is new and do you really need it?

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HTTP/2 is the successor of the elderly HTTP/1 protocol. Elderly, because its last update was in 1997. The new protocol should be – surprise, surprise – better and faster. As usual, opinions are divided if it’s the real new awesome thing, but for ordinary people it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line is – HTTP/2 will help speed up your website and as a result boost your SEO.

HTTP/2 Requirements

1. Server

In order to benefit from new protocol, you need a server that supports HTTP/2. Unfortunately, many hosting providers still haven’t upgraded their servers. In case you’re on the lookout for a new provider, check technical details and make sure they offer HTTP/2. You can verify if your server supports HTTP/2 with test from KeyCDN.

2. SSL Certificate

In protocol specification, there is no information that SSL certificate is a must. In reality however, HTTP/2 works only with websites via https://. Good news is, some hosting companies offer SSL certificate for free.

3. Web Browser

Two previous points are the things that you have to take care of on your side. However, web browsers used by visitors of your website also need to support HTTP/2 protocol. On caniuse.com you can check which browsers already support it.

What happens if user opens website over HTTP/2 but browser does not support it?

The world explodes! No, sorry, couldn’t helped myself ;o) If browser doesn’t support HTTP/2 the website will open as usual, but it will use good old HTTP/1 protocol.

How HTTP/2 is Better Than HTTP/1?

The biggest advantage from performance point of view of the new protocol, is how browser downloads website resources. In HTTP/1 each file had to wait for it’s turn to be downloaded to user’s computer. It’s kinda like they were waiting in the line to the same cash register. Continuing the analogy, with HTTP/2 protocol all cash registers are opened, browsers can download multiple files at once and as a result websites load faster.

 

You know that HTTP/2 requires SSL. But did you know that websites with SSL certificates take longer to load than those without it? But because HTTP/2 is faster than his older brother, this isn’t an issue anymore and can’t be used as an argument against encrypted websites.

Website Resources Optimization in HTTP/2 Era

Because it is possible to download multiple files at once, the recommendation to combine all CSS / JS files is no longer valid. You still should minify and compress files, but you do not have to combine them into one large package. This is theory. Practice shows something else.

Several tests were performed*, which showed that, like everything in IT, it depends… The conclusion is one. If website consists of many files, you still should group resources into small packages. The fact that you can download multiple files over HTTP/2, doesn’t mean that you should now load hundreds of small JS or CSS files.

“JS packaging”“The Right Way to Bundle Your Assets for Faster Sites over HTTP/2”

Is HTTP/2 a Must?

If you have a website with an SSL certificate and you care about speed of your website, then yes. Even if you are not using SSL certificate yet, you will soon. In the perfect world, internet traffic would be fully encrypted. Besides, Google likes sites with SSL and uses it as a ranking signal. Either way HTTP/2 is a future, so don’t forget to check technical details of your current or future hosting provider.

Hosting Providers that support HTTP/2

If you’re looking for hosting provider with SSD drives, HTTP/2 support, free SSL certificates, then we recommend:

  • FastComet – with fixed pricing policy (no surprise on renewal!), multiple server locations to choose from.
    One note: HTTP/2 is not available in the highest plan yet, because of the RocketBooster thingy that is about making websites faster. They are working on it. For other plans HTTP/2 is available.
  • SiteGround – multiple server locations to choose from, HTTP/2 available in all plans.