The abbreviation HTTP3 refers to the third version of the HTTP standard, the communication protocol on which internet data exchange is based. This new upgrade, which came out several years after version 2 (which already had several new features), is active and undergoing testing on certain highly regarded websites.
There are also some browsers, such as Google Canary and the version for Mozilla developers, Nightly, which allow this type of navigation protocol to be enabled simply by selecting one of the options in the settings.
How does HTTP3 change navigation?
Back in the eighties, the launch of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) was part of an authentic revolution in communication methods. Its implementation for the regulation of internet data exchange happened in 1996 and the 1.1 update was added in 1999.
Initially, server-client communication was based on the protocol TCP/IP, which sent packets of data and requests to the server individually (one at a time). The upgrade to HTTP/2 which came out in 2015 revolutionised this aspect, by providing the option to carry out operations in parallel, which made the sending and receipt of data considerably faster.
Nevertheless, the technology used in version 2 was still based on TCP, which, undoubtedly, offered a good level of security (thanks to the constant monitoring of each phase of communication), but was not able to meet the users’ needs as far as speed of response was concerned.
HTTP3 was designed with the aim of modernising transmission protocols, replacing TCP with QUIC: a new protocol developed by Google, capable of offering great performance, without compromising on security.
What is QUIC and what advantages does it offer?
Google has been working for some time on a new communications protocol which would combine the positive aspects of TCP and UDP. This has resulted in the development of QUIC (Quick UDP Internet Connection), which is able to exploit the fast interactions between servers and clients typical of UDP, while adding important checks on the security of the packets offered by the TCP.
Testing of the efficiency of QUIC on Google products, such as YouTube, Gmail, Google Chrome and Google Search has been underway in recent years. The positive results have attracted interest from giants such as Facebook (which is currently conducting tests on HTTP3), Apple and many others.
When will HTTP3 be launched permanently?
Although the testing phase is already well underway and giving encouraging results, the standardisation of HTTP3 is still under discussion. The Internet Engineering Task Force (known as IETF) is the body that deals with setting out the regulations that communications protocols must follow globally.
In the version of QUIC recently tested by the IETF (which will subsequently become the official one with HTTP3) there are some substantial differences compared to the version used by Google in its applications. In particular, with regard to data encryption, the organisation has stipulated the use of TLS 1.3, which increases the speed of the protocol itself.
The need to optimise the performance of HTTP3 is also being discussed, due to the increased workload required by QUIC compared to standard TCP. Furthermore, patches and modifications are necessary in order to improve the more obsolete systems to manage the resources in an acceptable way, without forcing the user to make hardware upgrades.
It seems then that the goal of achieving real standardisation is still a long way off. However, the signs are positive and with the increasing collaboration of other web giants, hopefully it will not be too long before HTTP3 sees an official launch.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith