HTTP is the protocol – or language – spoken between web browsers and web servers. Any time your web browser makes a request for any piece of information – a block of text, a video, a small image, audio, fonts, whatever – it asks for this information using the language of HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
The current version that everybody uses across the entire World Wide Web is 1.1. This standard has been in use for over 16 years and for the most part has worked well – because it’s actually a pretty simple set of commands like “GET” and “POST.”
The biggest problem with the old version is that it tends to be extremely chatty. The old version will usually open a separate connection for every element it downloads from a web page. Opening a new connection incurs a lot of overhead which slows down page loads. Sometimes these connections take a while to open which causes elements of a web page to inexplicably “hang.”
The new version, dubbed HTTP/2, will open a single connection and be a lot smarter about moving data to your web browser. It will also predict what might get loaded next and pre-load that before you even click on it.
These types of updates can seem minor but it can make a difference to the perceived speed of the web. More importantly when you multiply a few seconds of saved time across millions of users you’ll understand how new, more efficient protocols can reduce network and server loads and increase access for everyone.
Here’s an article with more information about the coming HTTP update.