Websites could soon become more responsive and more secure as they adopt a new version of HTTP. Cloudflare, the web infrastructure company which provides security and DNS support for a significant portion of the internet, announced it is rolling out preliminary support for HTTP/3 this week. The Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers will be joining Cloudflare in supporting HTTP/3 soon.
HTTP/3 is the newest version of HTTP, which is the protocol used to send data from a server where a website is hosted to a client such as a web browser. HTTP has gone through several updates over the years from the standardized HTTP/1.1 which was used on the early internet from 1997 to HTTP/2 which was standardized in 2015 and enabled greater responsiveness by allowing parallel requests. There has also been widespread adoption in the last few years of HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP which uses encryption to communicate between the server and the client.
HTTP/3 uses a different type of protocol from previous versions. The older versions use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), but the new version instead uses a protocol called QUIC which is faster. It also includes built-in support for Transport Layer Security (TLS), the protection part of HTTPS.
All of this means that websites should gradually become more responsive and more secure as their hosts adopt HTTP/3. The move “should make the web better for everyone,” according to Ryan Hamilton, Staff Software Engineer at Google, who shared his thoughts in a blog post. “The Chrome and Cloudflare teams have worked together closely to bring HTTP/3 and QUIC from nascent standards to widely adopted technologies for improving the web.”
HTTP/3 is available now if you use Chrome Canary, the name for Chrome’s bleeding-edge test builds. This version of the browser lets you preview new features before they’re rolled out across mainstream Chrome. But be warned — Canary features highly experimental features and can be unstable. So it’s more a tool for playing around with than the browser you’d want to use on a daily basis, but if you want to get an advanced look at future features then you can try it out.
“Google Chrome Canary just became the first (available) browser to integrate (very) experimental #QUIC and HTTP/3 support!” developer Robin Marx shared on Twitter. To enable the function, you add the flags –enable-quic –quic-version=h3-23. This should make http/2+quic/99 appear in the browser’s DevTools options which, according to Marx, is “actually http3 in disguise.”
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