Google today announced it will add HTTP/2, the second major version of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), to Google Chrome. The company plans to gradually roll out support to the latest version of its browser, Chrome 40, “in the upcoming weeks.”
At the same time, Google says it will remove support for SPDY in early 2016. SPDY, which is not an acronym but just a short version for the word “speedy,” is a protocol developed primarily at Google to improve browsing by forcing SSL encryption for all sites and speeding up page loads. Chrome will also lose support for the TLS extension NPN in favor of ALPN.
HTTP is an application protocol that forms the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web. Over the years, it has become dated, and there have been many initiatives to speed it up. SPDY was one of them, but Google now admits it is no longer needed.
HTTP/2 will be the first new version of the HTTP protocol since HTTP 1.1, which was standardized back in June 1999. Google’s move should surprise no one given that HTTP/2, currently being developed by the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Bis (httpbis) working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), is based on SPDY.
In the company’s own words:
HTTP/2’s primary changes from HTTP/1.1 focus on improved performance. Some key features such as multiplexing, header compression, prioritization and protocol negotiation evolved from work done in an earlier open, but non-standard protocol named SPDY. Chrome has supported SPDY since Chrome 6, but since most of the benefits are present in HTTP/2, it’s time to say goodbye.
While HTTP/2 is still on the road to standardization, browser makers, especially Google, like to stay a step ahead of such processes. The majority of the web still uses HTTP 1.1, but browsers of course need to support new protocols before websites can use them.
Other major browsers, including Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple’s Safari have all implemented SPDY to some degree. Like Google, they will all likely ditch it in favor of HTTP/2.