Microsoft is working on the HTTP/2 protocol in Internet Explorer. Work supporting HTTP/2 began when they added the SPDY 3.0 protocol to both Internet Explorer for Windows and Windows Phone 8.1, and if you are using Internet Explorer on the Technical Preview, you are already experiencing the newest additions.
Microsoft took a break from talking about their updates to go over why it’s important. Why HTTP/2 is important is the same reason HTTP/1 is limited. To load a webpage, your browser makes numerous distinct queries to the server. Each query has to wait until the server responds before it can address the next one. One solution is to open up many connections, but that limits the number of items that can be requested simultaneously and reduces server optimization.
HTTP/2 takes advantage of long-lived connections and combines multiples requests into a single connection (multiplexing) to increase efficiency. This results in faster and more efficient load times.
But how significant is this efficiency? Microsoft’s Bing study found a 10ms increase in page load times could cost a site $250,000 annually. A 100ms increase in delay can reduce up to a percent of sales of big online retailers due to search abandonment. This may be counterintuitive to some wondering, “I could wait up that long — its less than a second!” However, in the web every millisecond of improvement is important if you want to give your users a seamless experience.
This efficiency could also help mobile networks. Due to fewer and longer lasting connections, HTTP/2 would put less pressure on the network. With billions of phones, networks are already trying to find ways to manage everyone trying to connect to the internet (capped data plans, anyone?).
HTTP/2 is completely backwards compatible with HTTP/1.1, so developers don’t have to change libraries or APIs. This was vital to smooth out the transition and make it the new industry standard. You can test it for yourself in Internet Explorer in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. To find out more, click here.