There’s a new kid in town, and that kid’s name is HTTP2. HTTP2 is an updated version of HTTP and is rapidly becoming an industry standard. The question is not really HTTP vs HTTPS, it’s HTTP1 vs HTTP2. And, like so much that is tech-related, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. In this case, the time is now to upgrade your site to the HTTP2.
HTTP2 is a Done Deal
When I asked Laurent Vergnaud, CEO, Themecloud.io, a web hosting company that has already adopted the latest standards, whether website owners and developers should be planning for HTTP2, he said “Yes, definitely. HTTP2 will become the new standard in 2016. Every modern browser is already supporting it and hosting companies are starting to also. The ones who are not ready will be left behind.”
Manish Champsee, Principal, Champsee Solutions, a web development company, adds “As a practical matter today, if you are accessing a site via HTTPS, it is likely going to be using HTTP version 2 as recent versions of web browsers and web server software all support it. Though if either the web browser is old or the web server software is old, you will be communicating using HTTP version 1.1.”
In a nutshell, your site could already be on HTTP2.
HTTP, HTTPS, and HTTP2 Defined
Without drilling into all the technical details, HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and it refers to how data (which is what IT people, developers, and other techs call the words, numbers, and images you see on your computer screen) is packaged and moved from your computer or website to a server, and to other websites. In HTTPS, the S stands for “secure.”
Websites are usually secured with Transport Layer Security (TLS), which means that the data you are transferring is encrypted, making it harder (but still definitely not impossible!) to read by hackers that may be snooping around looking for information like your credit card number (an important piece of data and a real hassle when it gets into the wrong hands).
You may have noticed that ecommerce and financial websites all use HTTPS. If you find one that doesn’t, you should not give them credit card and other sensitive information. How can you tell? In the website URL in the browser bar, you’ll see HTTPS in green, along with a lock.
As for HTTP2, like I said, it’s an updated version of HTTP1 that is designed to incorporate security measures like encryption, and deliver data much, much faster. The good news? HTTP2 comes with security baked in, so, if you go the HTTP2 route, you don’t have to worry about a second process to get your data encrypted. The bad news is that HTTP2 is not quite standard as of now.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and other HTTP2 Benefits
In a nutshell, Google has been favoring secured websites since at least 2014, and will most likely continue to go in that direction. With HTTP2, since encryption is included, you’ll get that SEO benefit.
Perhaps more importantly, HTTP2 is a much faster way to transfer data. Google has long been upfront about the fact that quick site loading times give your website a big boost according to the their algorithm.
In case it’s not obvious, site speed is also important for user experience, which affects the rest of your SEO. It makes sense that if your site loads faster, your bounce rate will be lower, your conversions (the amount of visitors who turn into customers or who at least give you their contact information) will be higher, and your revenue ultimately should increase. What’s not to love?
How Do I Get HTTP2?
In order to use HTTP2 now, you need to do the following:
- Use a host that can give you dedicated Internet Protocol (IP) address, which means you are not sharing your data on a server (even with the new standards, many smaller hosts do not offer this option).
- Purchase an TLS certificate.
- Activate the TLS certificate.
- Install the certificate.
- Redirect HTTP links to HTTPS links.
Once your site is HTTPS-ready, you can use HTTP2 with a host that offers it.
To simplify things, check with your host to find out if they can do the above for you. If they can’t, you may want to consider moving to a host who can and does because life is too short to a) be behind on Google standards and digital marketing best practices and b) spend all day trying to figure out how to get an SSL certificate when you could be meeting with clients or sipping cocktails. If, however, you are feeling the DIY spirit, here’s how to get an SSL certificate and convert you site to HTTPS, in detail.
Be an Early Adopter
Fortunately, as HTTP2 becomes more standard, the average consumer will not have to worry about this at all. Unfortunately, businesses who already own websites and don’t know about these updates will be left behind. Being an early adopter of HTTP2, especially if you have an ecommerce site, allows you to provide the best possible user experience for your clients and website visitors while getting good with Google.
I call that a win.