HTTP/2 (originally named HTTP/2.0) is the second major version of the HTTP network protocol used by the World Wide Web. It is based on SPDY. HTTP/2 was developed by the Hypertext Transfer Protocol working group (httpbis, where bis means "repeat" or "twice") of the Internet Engineering Task Force. HTTP/2 is the first new version of HTTP since HTTP 1.1, which was standardized in RFC 2068 in 1997. The Working Group presented HTTP/2 to IESG for consideration as a Proposed Standard in December 2014, and IESG approved it to publish as Proposed Standard on February 17, 2015. The HTTP/2 specification was published as RFC 7540 in May 2015.
The working group charter mentions several goals and issues of concern:
- Negotiation mechanism that allows clients and servers to elect to use HTTP 1.1, 2.0, or potentially other non-HTTP protocols.
- Maintain high-level compatibility with HTTP 1.1 (for example with methods, status codes, and URIs, and most header fields)
- Decrease latency to improve page load speed in web browsers by considering:
- Support common existing use cases of HTTP, such as desktop web browsers, mobile web browsers, web APIs, web servers at various scales, proxy servers, reverse proxy servers, firewalls, and content delivery networks
Differences from HTTP 1.1
The proposed changes do not require any changes to how existing web applications work, but new applications can take advantage of new features for increased speed.
HTTP/2 leaves most of HTTP 1.1's high level syntax, such as methods, status codes, header fields, and URIs, the same. The element that is modified is how the data is framed and transported between the client and the server.
Websites that are efficient minimize the number of requests required to render an entire page by minifying (reducing the amount of code and packing smaller pieces of code into bundles, without reducing its ability to function) resources such as images and scripts. However, minification is not necessarily convenient nor efficient, and may still require separate HTTP connections to get the page and the minified resources. HTTP/2 allows the server to "push" content, that is, to respond with data for more queries than the client requested. This allows the server to supply data it knows a web browser will need to render a web page, without waiting for the browser to examine the first response, and without the overhead of an additional request cycle.
Additional performance improvements in the first draft of HTTP/2 (which was a copy of SPDY) come from multiplexing of requests and responses to avoid the head-of-line blocking problem in HTTP 1 (even when HTTP pipelining is used), header compression, and prioritization of requests.
Genesis in and later differences from SPDY
SPDY (pronounced like "speedy") is a previous HTTP-replacement protocol developed by a research project spearheaded by Google. SPDY primarily focuses on reducing latency. SPDY uses the same TCP pipe but different protocols to accomplish this reduction. The basic changes made to HTTP 1.1 to create SPDY include: "true request pipelining without FIFO restrictions, message framing mechanism to simplify client and server development, mandatory compression (including headers), priority scheduling, and even bi-directional communication".
The httpbis working group considered Google's SPDY protocol, Microsoft's HTTP Speed+Mobility proposal (SPDY based), and Network-Friendly HTTP Upgrade. In July 2012 Facebook provided feedback on each of the proposals and recommended HTTP/2 be based on SPDY. The initial draft of HTTP/2 was published in November 2012 and was based on a straight copy of SPDY.
The biggest difference between HTTP/1.1 and SPDY, is that each user action in SPDY is given a "stream ID", meaning there is a single TCP channel connecting the user to the server. SPDY splits requests into either control or data, which is a "simple to parse binary protocol with two types of frames." SPDY has shown evident improvement from HTTP, with a new page load speedup ranging from 11.81% to 47.7%.
The development of HTTP/2 used SPDY as a jumping-off point. Among the many detailed differences between the protocol, the most notable is that HTTP/2 uses a fixed Huffman code-based header compression algorithm, instead of SPDY's dynamic stream-based compression. This helps to reduce the potential for compression oracle attacks on the protocol, such as the CRIME attack.
On February 9, 2015, Google announced plans to remove support for SPDY in Chrome by early 2016, in favor of support for HTTP/2, starting with Chrome 40.
Although the standard itself does not require usage of encryption, most client implementations (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, IE, Edge) have stated that they will only support HTTP/2 over TLS, which makes encryption de facto mandatory.
HTTP/2's development process and the protocol itself have faced criticism.
The FreeBSD and Varnish developer Poul-Henning Kamp claims that the standard was prepared on an unrealistically short schedule, ruling out any basis for the new HTTP/2 other than the SPDY protocol and resulted in missing other opportunities for improvements. Kamp criticizes the protocol itself for being inconsistent and having needless, overwhelming complexity. He also states that the protocol violates the protocol layering principle, for example by duplicating flow control with transport layer (TCP). Most concerns, however, have been related to encryption issues.
Initially, some members of the Working Group were trying to push an encryption requirement into the protocol. This faced criticism.
Critics stated that encryption has non-negligible computing costs (though available data shows the opposite) and that many HTTP applications have actually no need for encryption and their providers have no desire to spend additional resources on it. Poul-Henning Kamp, lead developer of varnish HTTP accelerator and a senior FreeBSD kernel developer, has criticised IETF for following a particular political agenda with HTTP/2. The criticism of the agenda of mandatory encryption within the existing certificate framework is not new, nor is it unique to members of the open-source community – a Cisco employee stated in 2013 that the present certificate model is not compatible with small devices like routers, because the present model requires not only annual enrollment and remission of non-trivial fees for each certificate, but must be continually repeated on an annual basis. Working Group finally did not reach consensus over the mandatory encryption, although most client implementations require it, which makes encryption a de facto requirement.
The HTTP/2 protocol also faced criticism for not supporting opportunistic encryption, a measure against passive monitoring similar to the STARTTLS mechanism that has long been available in other internet protocols like SMTP. It has been pointed out that the HTTP/2 proposal goes in violation of IETF's own RFC7258 "Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack", which also has a status of Best Current Practice 188. RFC7258/BCP188 mandates that passive monitoring be considered as an attack, and protocols designed by IETF should take steps to protect against passive monitoring (for example, through the use of opportunistic encryption). A number of specifications for opportunistic encryption of HTTP/2 have been provided, of which draft-ietf-httpbis-http2-encryption-01 is an official work item of the working group.
|Done||December 20, 2007||First HTTP 1.1 Revision Internet Draft|
|Done||January 23, 2008||First HTTP Security Properties Internet Draft|
|Done||Early 2012||Call for Proposals for HTTP 2.0|
|Done||October 14 – November 25, 2012||Working Group Last Call for HTTP 1.1 Revision|
|Done||November 28, 2012||First WG draft of HTTP 2.0, based upon draft-mbelshe-httpbis-spdy-00|
|Held/Eliminated||Working Group Last Call for HTTP Security Properties|
|Done||September 2013||Submit HTTP 1.1 Revision to IESG for consideration as a Proposed Standard|
|Done||February 12, 2014||IESG approved HTTP 1.1 Revision to publish as a Proposed Standard|
|Done||June 6, 2014||Publish HTTP 1.1 Revision as RFC 7230, 7231, 7232, 7233, 7234, 7235|
|Done||August 1, 2014 – September 1, 2014||Working Group Last call for HTTP/2|
|Done||December 16, 2014||Submit HTTP/2 to IESG for consideration as a Proposed Standard|
|Done||December 31, 2014 – January 14, 2015||IETF Last Call for HTTP/2|
|Done||January 22, 2015||IESG telechat to review HTTP/2 as Proposed Standard|
|Done||February 17, 2015||IESG approved HTTP/2 to publish as Proposed Standard|
|Done||May 14, 2015||Publish HTTP/2 as RFC 7540|
||It has been suggested that this section be merged into Comparison of web server software. (Discuss) Proposed since October 2015.|
- Akamai Edge Servers supports HTTP/2. http2.akamai.com showcases Akamai HTTP/2 implementation.
- Apache 2.4.12 supports HTTP/2 via the module mod_h2, although appropriate patches must be applied to the source code of the server in order for it to support that module. As of Apache 2.4.17 all patches are included in the main Apache source tree, although the module itself was renamed mod_http2. Old versions of SPDY were supported via the module mod_spdy, however the development of the module has stopped.
- Apache Traffic Server supports HTTP/2 
- CDN77 - Content Delivery Network supports HTTP/2 using NGINX (August 20, 2015). http2demo.io presents demo for HTTP/2 implementation on CDN77.com.
- Citrix NetScaler Citrix NetScaler 11.x added support for HTTP/2.
- F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager 11.6 supports HTTP/2 
- h2o was built from the ground up for HTTP/2 support 
- Imperva Incapsula CDN supports HTTP/2. http2.incapsula.com showcases Incapsula's HTTP/2 implementation. Implementation includes support for WAF and DDoS mitigation features as well.
- Jetty 9.3 supports HTTP/2 
- KeyCDN supports HTTP/2 using NGINX (October 6, 2015). HTTP/2 Test - Verify if your server supports HTTP/2.
- LiteSpeed Web Server 5.0 supports HTTP/2 
- Microsoft IIS supports HTTP/2 in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.
- nginx 1.9.5 supports HTTP/2
- OpenLiteSpeed 1.3.11 and 1.4.8 supports HTTP/2
- Proxygen supports HTTP/2.
- Radware Alteon NG supports HTTP/2 
- Warp (Haskell web server, used by default in Yesod) supports HTTP/2
- Wildfly 9 supports HTTP/2
- Not planned
- Other implementations are collected on the GitHub HTTP/2 wiki.
- Bright, Peter (Feb 18, 2015). "HTTP/2 finished, coming to browsers within weeks". Ars Technica.
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- "History for draft-ietf-httpbis-http2-16". IETF. Retrieved 2015-01-03.
2014-12-16 IESG state changed to Publication Requested
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- "Can the rise of SPDY threaten HTTP?". blog.restlet.com. Restlet, Inc. October 2011.
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- "SPDY: An experimental protocol for a faster web". The Chromium Projects.
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- Official website
- RFC 7540 – Hypertext Transfer Protocol version 2 (HTTP/2)
- RFC 7541 – HPACK: Header Compression for HTTP/2
- SPDY Protocol (draft-mbelshe-httpbis-spdy-00)
- HTTP Speed+Mobility (draft-montenegro-httpbis-speed-mobility-01)
- Proposal for a Network-Friendly HTTP Upgrade (draft-tarreau-httpbis-network-friendly-00)