CloudFlare Turns on HTTP/2 Support for All Users

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CloudFlare has launched full support of the HTTP/2 protocol, effectively doubling the new standard’s adoption, and providing faster page loading while decreasing congestion, the company announced Thursday. CloudFlare will continue to support the SPDY protocol, but also now automatically provides support for HTTP/2 through SSL/TLS connections.

SPDY is a precursor to HTTP/2 developed by Google, and both provide multiplexing and concurrency by sending multiple requests over one TCP connection, stream dependencies, header compression, and server push, which a blog post said is pending implementation at Nginx and CloudFlare. HTTP/2 was approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force in February.

“To give you a sense, if every request over the CloudFlare network came over HTTP/2, in one month we’d collectively save Internet users 95 thousand years they’d otherwise spend waiting for the Internet to load over HTTP/1.1,” CloudFlare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince said in a statement.

Customers on Free or Pro plans will automatically receive the fastest connections to their websites that their site visitors have available, while Business and Enterprise customers can enable HTTP/2 through the Network application in the CloudFlare dashboard.

The company will only support HTTP/2 over TLS, following the major browser vendors. Internal testing by CloudFlare to determine how many visitors to its site were using HTTP/2-capable browsers showed that just under 27 percent of all visitors were capable of receiving the connection benefits of the protocol, and Chrome was used by over half (15 percent).

“In order for these protocols to actually take off, you have to have early adopters that are willing to make bets around them,” Prince told The Verge. “What we’ve been able to do at CloudFlare is show that some of these things are possible.”

Apache and Nginx both launched HTTP/2 support in the last few months, and Edge and Safari are expected to join Chrome and Firefox among supporting browsers.

CloudFlare hired Ben Fathi as head of engineering in October, weeks before launching Universal DNSSEC. The company also recently launched a data center in Switzerland, its 69th.

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