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IETF starts work on next-generation HTTP standard

HTTP 2.0 will be based on Google's SPDY protocol

With an eye toward updating the World Wide Web to better accommodate complex and bandwidth-hungry applications, the Internet Engineering Task Force has started work on the next generation of HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), the underlying protocol for the Web.

"It's official: We're working on HTTP/2.0," wrote IETF Hypertext Transfer Protocol working group chairman Mark Nottingham, in a Twitter message late Tuesday.

The group will use the IETF standard SPDY protocol as the basis for the updated protocol. Engineers at Google developed SPDY as a way to hasten the delivery of Web content over the Internet.

Nottingham officially announced the work following the recharter of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol working group by the IESG (Internet Engineering Steering Group).

Version 2.0 of HTTP will address the changing nature of how people use the Web. While the first generation of websites were largely simple and relatively small, static documents, the Web today is used as a platform for delivering applications and bandwidth-intensive, real-time multimedia content.

The protocol will reduce latency and streamline the process of how servers transmit content to browsers. It must be backward compatible with HTTP 1.1 and remain open to be extended for future uses as well.

HTTP 2.0 will continue to rely primarily on TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), though other transport mechanisms may be substituted.

Julian Reschkeof, Alexey Melnikov and Martin Thomson will serve as editors for the proposed draft, to be called draft-ietf-httpbis-http2-00. The group is scheduled to submit a proposed standard to the IESG by 2014.

Some have praised the IETF's use of SPDY as a launching point, noting how well it optimizes the delivery of Web server traffic.

"Having a solid standard would be extremely beneficial for the Web community. The work Google did on developing and maintaining the SPDY specification is amazing, however it hasn't really become a standard yet," wrote Andrew Alexeev, co-founder and business director of Web server software company NGINX, which offers open-source, high-performance Web server software of the same name.

Alexeev noted, in an email, that Google has progressed in its work on SPDY so quickly that third-party vendors and browser makers must struggle to accommodate the successive waves of changes.

"We can adjust, but having a real, stable, solid, mature standard would be key to further improvements of HTTP protocol," Alexeev wrote. "There's definitely the need for a modern Web protocol that is well suited for today's and tomorrow's Internet infrastructure, web architectures, applications, server and client software."

The working group will also continue to refine the current version of the protocol, HTTP 1.1, which underlies the entire World Wide Web. According to estimates, there are currently about 8.45 billion Web pages.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is [email protected]

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