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HTTP/2 Illustration

The Road to HTTP/2: Casual Migration or Forced Relocation?

There has been so much internet chatter recently about the impending movement from HTTP to HTTP/2. The decade and a half old protocol that allows our browsers to talk to servers and vice versa is sorely in need of an update. As technology has continued to rocket forward at unprecedented speeds, the old technologies that originally kept us warm and cozy like that old velour blanket are starting to get a little pilly and tattered, necessitating some updates.

The Future is Fast

The benefits of moving from the old protocol to the new one are fairly clear–fewer open connections between server and host, faster loading pages, better encryption, etc. Essentially, we’re looking at a speedier, more secure internet which is great for everybody. If you’re ready to dig in and do some serious reading you should check out the Git page for the HTTP/2 working group. It has everything HTTP/2–info to the nth degree. If you don’t want a blinding headache and just need the facts, then read this article on the basics of HTTP/2 on Gizmodo. It’s short, very succinct, and will leave your brain cells largely intact while giving you the broad strokes.

There are few that would deny the benefits of a faster web–me especially. The HTTP/2 protocol will pave the way for future innovation in the web space, which is exactly what’s needed in the coming years. We are in the throes of migrating all of our own sites to HTTPS over the next few weeks as we prepare to move into compliance with the newest standard. Yet, our decision to move in that direction was not completely necessitated by the desire to stay on the cusp of technology. No, unfortunately, a portion of our decision making process was in response to the fear of penalization.

Yet, our decision to embrace HTTP/2 was not completely necessitated by the desire to stay on the cusp of technology. No, a portion of our decision making process was in response to the fear of penalization.

Google has made it very clear that there will be “disadvantages” in the near future for sites that are not encrypted. At the very least, they will wear their unencrypted status like a small badge of dishonor for everyone to see. Larger implications, however, might also exist. For instance it’s been hinted at that not using encryption could mean problems for site owners in the SERP. That being, an unencrypted website’s visibility in the search engines could suffer due to non-compliance. SSL is already used as a ranking factor, but that factor might become much more important in the coming months. And this is really, in my mind, the root of the problem–one organization initiating change for everyone else.

We’ve Seen The Future, Please Don’t Force It

First, let me say that I’m not opposed to Google–in any way. I use their products, I move through the web with their software, I conduct business in the Google space. And yet, there is a little nagging voice in the back of my head that chimes up when I read articles like those previously mentioned. It’s no surprise that Google holds a lot of sway in our daily lives at this point. For that matter, so do Apple, Microsoft, and a handful of other tech-related companies. Yet, Google is one of the few organizations that can use that influence to force organizations (and individuals) into compliance of new standards–many times leading to great expense on the behalf of the website owner.

We only need to step back into 2015 and the change to the algorithm that gave increased visibility to sites that were “mobile friendly” to see that. I’m still talking to clients who are “concerned” about their web presence because their site is fixed width, and that will continue for years to come. But when we look at that change from a 10,000 foot perspective what do we see? An update designed to improve the rankings, or one to “encourage” a mass migration to responsive website design?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m completely and utterly all for change and forward progression. Responsive sites NEED to happen. HTTP/2 NEEDS to happen.

Now, here we are in 2016, and we are adding SSL certs to the mix, and the client, still trying to get their arms around the cost of adjusting their websites to support the “mobile standard” now needs to tackle encryption as well. Is it any wonder that all the client hears is “cash, cash, cash” whenever we open our mouths?

I’m not opposed to updates to the search algorithm, either. They are beneficial. Updates that force SEOs to change their strategy because, for instance, they are keyword stuffing are good. That’s leveling the field to force everyone to play fair.

Where I start to question the validity of things is when they’re “encouraging” change that affects an entire sector (financially) in order to push forward a proposed technological standard. While I know it’s done from a viewpoint of, “this is best for everyone”, I’m just not sold on the measures used to encourage that change…regardless of how much it’s needed.