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Is HTTP/2 worth the performance price of TLS?

HTTP/2 (h2) is incredibly exciting: The first major rev to HTTP in 15 years, focused on modern web development, performance minded, etc., etc.  But one thing that has people looking at it with trepidation is that to use it you effectively need to move your site over to TLS (i.e. HTTPS).  Though not a requirements in the protocol, no major browser has plans to put h2 in the clear.  Whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing ( I personally am thrilled ) it brings front and center the questions you may have been avoiding: should I move my site to TLS? We have done extensive testing of h2 performance.  Akamai's Foundry team spent time after every significant revision of the draft specification seeing what worked and what did not.  What we saw was consistent: improvements in page load time in the common case between 0% and 25%.  What is significant about these particular numbers is they are comparing an HTTP version of a site against an HTTPS version using TLS and h2.  In other words, the 'goodness' of h2 should make up for the overhead of TLS and then some in most cases.  Performance can be very situational, so mileage will vary in specific scenarios and on specific webpages, but it is exciting to see improvements on the horizon.


Stephen Ludin is a Chief Architect for Akamai's Web Experience group. He currently heads the company's Foundry team - a small group dedicated to innovating on the edge of technology. He joined Akamai in 2002 and works out of Akamai's San Francisco office. His primary focus has been on projects related to the core proxy technology that is responsible for routing, accelerating, and securing Akamai's traffic.

1 Comment

HTTP/2 is a very good standard. Still, the complicated process and the expensive certificates can severely discriminate small companies / private websites. Until there is no free CA, which will grant you a certificate for free, HTTP/2 will go mainstream.

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