Stop what you’re doing right now. The #GG arguments and the vertical, 12-second videos from SNL40’s after-party can wait. The entire web as you know it is about to change. The HTTP/2 standard has finally been defined.
Of course, I’m being a bit hyperbolic.
HTTP, an acronym for words that won’t mean much to you, is the protocol your browser and the servers which host the sites you visit use to communicate. The current version (1.1) has been around for 16 years, and has been doing fine since then. HTTP/2 is simply an update to the protocol that caters to the way that the modern web has ended up.
“Why does this matter to me?” you might ask. If you use any modern browser and visit any popular site (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo), you’ve already been using a version of it and this means nothing. The finalized standard is based on SPDY, something Google has been working on, which every browser you could possibly use on your Macbook Air has already implemented at least part of.
This isn’t news, but that’s okay
I have a confession: I’m a programmer and I’m excited about HTTP/2. It is an incremental change in the way the entire Internet works and its widespread adoption will see the web feeling faster and lighter — something increasingly important for the mobile world. There’s also something to be said about the work that was put into the official spec. The IETF should be lauded for their ability to herd engineering cats, take the work Google did, and convert it to an open spec.
Here’s the problem I have with all of this: This isn’t news. This isn’t news to the average Internet user. This isn’t news to the average tech blog reader. Hell, this isn’t even news to most programmers. Like the “ZOMG CSS3 AND HTML5” articles of yore, this story is coming too soon. HTTP/2 is for sure going to add to the increase in rate of change for things on the Internet, but it’ll do it without being noticed. It will continue to be incorporated into more websites you visit, and browsers will more fully support the official spec. There won’t ever be an explosion of speed from your phone’s browser where you’ll ask yourself “oh! is today HTTP/2 day?!”
Remember the day that every website switched over from physical servers to virtual servers in “the cloud”? Or what about that day when every video hosting site got rid of their Flash-based video player? HTTP/2 will be everywhere, but only after another decade, and then it will be time to unveil HTTP/3, or X, or we’ll all just be transmitting information telepathically by then. Who knows?
The point is, HTTP/2 is something you don’t need to care about. You won’t even notice it being rolled out, and I think that’s kind of neat.
Cullen MacDonald is a New York-based software engineer. He likes old British cars, old American guitars, and Chinese food. Find him on Twitter.