In late 2009, Google came out with its SPDY protocol that the search giant intended to replace the basic Web protocol HTTP, with the intention of speeding up the Internet. Now Microsoft wants to build on that protocol in the sanctioned forum of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meetings on HTTP 2.0 this week. Called "HTTP Speed+Mobility," Microsoft's take on a faster underpinning for the Web wants to bring the speedups to apps and mobile devices as well as to good old Web browsers running on desktop.
Writing in a joint post on the Interoperability @ Microsoft Blog, Group Program Managers Sandeep Singhal (Windows Core Networking) and Jean Paoli (Interoperability Strategy) state that the new version of HTTP "can positively impact user experience, operational and environmental costs, and even the battery life of the devices you carry around." The idea behind HTTP Speed+Mobility is to combine SPDY with WebSocket, a W3C technology that allows a two-way channel between Web server and client, whether that's a browser or app.
HTTP 2.0 is now an official goal of the IETF, with its HTTPbis working group's approval of a new charter. According to the charter, the existing version, HTTP 1.1, "has several editorial issues. Additionally, after years of implementation and extension, several ambiguities have become evident, impairing interoperability and the ability to easily implement and use HTTP." One goal is for the protocol to be fully backward compatible.
But the first two goals of the working group will be welcomed by anyone who uses the Web:
- Significantly improved perceived performance for common use cases (e.g., browsers, mobile), and
- More efficient use of network resources; in particular, reducing the need to use multiple TCP connections
Of course, Microsoft has a vested interest in making apps' Web interactions faster, since Windows 8 puts a heavy emphasis on the Web-connected Metro-style apps, not to mention its budding Window Phone app ecosystem.
And speaking of phones, Singhal and Paoli make this compelling statement about how the new protocol can improve the mobile Web experience: "People want their mobile devices to have better battery life. HTTP 2.0 can help decrease the power consumption of network access. Mobile devices also give people a choice of networks with different costs and bandwidth limits. Embedded sensors and clients face similar issues. HTTP 2.0 can make this better." A big part of this will be accomplished by avoided downloading unneeded or already present data to the device.
The Microsofties praise Google's work on SPDY, "SPDY has done a great job raising awareness of web performance and taking a “clean slate” approach to improving HTTP to make the Web faster." At the same time, Singhal and Paoli hint at the possibility of conflict with competing interests like Google, anticipating "vigorous, open discussion."