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What Are HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 Protocols?

HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 are advanced versions of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the fundamental application-layer protocol for the World Wide Web. As the core means of transmitting data between a client (typically a web browser) and a server, HTTP has evolved over the years to improve its performance, security, and efficiency.

HTTP/2, formally standardized as RFC 7540 in 2015, introduced several significant enhancements over the previous version, HTTP/1.1. Key features of HTTP/2 include:

  1. Binary framing layer. Unlike the text-based HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2 employs a binary framing layer, enabling more efficient and accurate parsing and reducing latency.
  2. Multiplexing. HTTP/2 supports multiple concurrent requests and responses within a single connection, reducing the need for multiple connections and improving page load times.
  3. Header compression. By compressing HTTP headers using the HPACK compression algorithm, HTTP/2 reduces the amount of data transmitted, leading to better performance and lower overhead.
  4. Server push. This feature enables a server to proactively send resources to the client's cache, even before the client requests them, resulting in faster load times.
  5. Stream prioritization. HTTP/2 allows clients to assign priorities to different streams, enabling servers to allocate resources more effectively and improving the overall user experience.

HTTP/3, specified as RFC 9000 in 2021, builds upon HTTP/2 and addresses the limitations of its underlying transport layer protocol, the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). HTTP/3 replaces TCP with the Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC) protocol, which utilizes the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) to provide several benefits:

  1. Reduced connection establishment latency. To establish a connection, QUIC requires fewer round trips between the client and server, resulting in faster connection times.
  2. Improved congestion control. QUIC incorporates advanced congestion control algorithms that better adapt to varying network conditions, leading to more efficient data transmission.
  3. Connection migration. QUIC supports connection migration, allowing clients to switch between network interfaces (e.g., Wi-Fi and cellular) without interrupting the connection.
  4. Built-in encryption. QUIC has encryption and authentication mechanisms built into the protocol, providing improved security and privacy.
  5. Better handling of packet loss. QUIC's independent streams can continue data transmission even when individual packets are lost, mitigating the impact of packet loss on overall performance.

HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 are the latest iterations of the HTTP protocol, designed to enhance web performance, security, and efficiency.

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