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HTTP/2 Turns One: Farewell to SPDY

Akamai was the first CDN to support HTTP/2. This blog post is part of an ongoing series where we will discuss a wide range of H2-related topics. In today's post, we are boding a fond farewell to SPDY.

May 15, 2016, marks the end of an era. Since this is the Internet I think I can get away with calling five years an era.  On May 15, the one year anniversary of HTTP/2 becoming an Internet standard with RFC 7540, Google Chrome is dropping support for SPDY.  This is not a surprise - Google mentioned back in 2014 that they intended to end of life SPDY.  Nginx removed SPDY support in September of 2015. Akamai will remove support for SPDY in the summer of 2016.  Regardless of the lack of surprise factor, the event is significant. SPDY served its purpose.  It shocked the Internet community into the the realization that not only could we improve on HTTP/1.1, but that people were ready and willing to change. Now it steps aside for its successor in a modern bloodless revolution.

Why did SPDY succeed when other well intentioned proposals failed?  The obvious answer has to do with Google's browser market share and what I will call 'end point' share. They were able to include it in Google Chrome and support it on the Google Front End, giving them what may amount to the largest petri dish in history.  This leads us to the second reason: iterations.  They designed, implemented, tried, failed, analyzed, returned to the drawing board, and repeated.  Third, this was not some ivory tower exercise.  The whole thing was hashed out in public through the Chromium project.  Anyone who wanted to get involved could.  This involvement not only improved the end product, but gave the community a sense of ownership and responsibility.  Never have I seen so many, so excited about a protocol. 

And then the most important event of all: Mozilla included SPDY support in their Firefox beta in 2012. An implementation by a second major browser eliminated all questions about SPDY's legitimacy. SPDY had arrived.

This all laid the groundwork for HTTP/2. 

How often do we hear the quote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"?  Well, the corollary is that those who cannot remember also can't repeat the things they want.  SPDY's history and development is full of good lessons, many of which deserve repeating as we continue to push the boundaries of the Internet. Without SPDY we would have never gotten HTTP/2.  Thank you and farewell, SPDY.

Additional reading on HTTP/2: HTTP/2 is here; come and get it!