Computers and Technology

HTTP: the Building Block of the Internet

The terms “web” and “internet” have been used interchangeably over the years, but the reality is, these two are different from each other. In this case, the internet refers to the vast network of various networks connected via fiber cables, switches, and routers.

Meanwhile, the web is also referred to as the “World Wide Web,” which is the primary application used on the internet. The web comprises three primary components: the HTTP protocol, web servers, and web browsers.

Among the three, HTTP is considered the most challenging concept to understand. So, what exactly is HTTP? In addition, how crucial is it in shaping our presence on the internet?

Learn the answers to these and more in this article.

Defining HTTP: An Overview of the Internet’s Building Block

To understand how HTTP influences how we use the internet, let’s first define what HTTP is and what it stands for. HTTP is short for “HyperText Transfer Protocol,” the protocol used as the world wide web’s foundation.

It was created by Tim Berners-Lee, a world-renowned computer scientist, in 1989 while he was working at the Geneva headquarters of CERN.

As an application layer protocol, the HTTP protocol was designed to serve as the bridge between the numerous web servers on the internet and seamlessly transfer information between networked devices via a stable connection.

This internet protocol was invented together with HTML or “Hypertext Markup Language” to create the world’s text-based web browser or the “world wide web.” Nowadays, HTTP is still considered the primary channel people use when using the internet.

HTTP Over the Years: the Different Versions of HTTP

Although it remains the foundation of the web as we know it today, the HTTP protocol has undergone numerous changes over the years, constantly being modified and adapted to fit modern users’ needs.

With that said, there have been several versions over the years, including the following:

  • HTTP 0.9

This is generally considered the first-ever version of the protocol, although it initially had no name. It had a single line and could only handle simple requests, and the responses were straightforward as well.

With this version, HTML files could only be transmitted, not received. It also had no error or status codes, so it generated specific HTML files to help developers understand what the problem was whenever there were errors.

  • HTTP 1.0

The initial version was later updated to add more versatility, wherein the server and the browser would establish a connection to send requests and receive responses. However, once the response is received, the link will be terminated.

Users needed to create a new connection to send a new request, which significantly affected the pages’ loading times and overall speed. This version was introduced in the early 1990s and was standard until a new version was released in 1997.

  • HTTP 1.1

In this next update, the browser could now create a persistent connection, wherein it would use an existing TCP connection for sending requests. This allowed it to send new requests without the need for establishing another connection to do so.

Another feature called HTTP pipelining was later added to the protocol, which allowed browsers to send several requests at once and receive several responses at once in return.

However, the server needed to follow a specific order when responding, which delayed the other subsequent requests. The first standardized version of HTTP 1.1 was published in 1997 and remained the predominant HTTP version until a new one was released in 2015.

  • HTTP 2

This version was standardized in 2015 and replaced the HTTP 1.1 protocol. What’s unique about this specific type is that it allows browsers to send multiple requests at once with a single connection, and the server can respond immediately without following a particular order.

This change in the protocol significantly reduced the time needed to load requests, allowing users to enjoy faster loading times and speeds when browsing.

HTTP Requests: How They Work

HTTP requests are how web browsers get the information they need from servers when loading websites. Each request contains several pieces of data that servers evaluate when sending responses.

These requests typically contain the following:

  • The URL
  • The HTTP version
  • HTTP request headers
  • The HTTP method

For this, the HTTP request headers and HTTP method are the most crucial aspects. The HTTP method is also referred to as the “HTTP verb,” as it states what action the request wants to receive from the server.

Meanwhile, HTTP request headers contain the requesting user’s core information, such as what data they’re requesting and what browser they’re currently using.

HTTP headers are crucial for improving web pages’ loading speeds and overall performance, which is why it’s generally a good idea to use common HTTP headers if you want to optimize your website.

Using common HTTP headers is also an excellent way to reduce the chances of being blocked by websites when conducting web scraping.  Read on for more common HTTP headers ideas.

Conclusion

The internet has undoubtedly changed the face of modern society, but we wouldn’t be able to even connect without the HTTP protocol. Thanks to HTTP, we can now more easily and quickly access what’s on the internet and use it to improve not just our individual lives but society as a whole.

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