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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Rocket-powered websites

Websites get from where they live to your computer via a network of wires. They’re transferred using a technology called HTTP, which has been stuck at version 1.1 for a little more than sixteen years. All well and good: if it’s not broken, then why fix it?

The reason to fix it is that since the iPhone was released, everyone (OK, everyone who cares) working in the internet has realized that high-speed connection isn’t always available. Mobile phones run over wireless phone network connections and even 4G, which is massively faster than networks six to eight years ago, isn’t as quick as we need it to be.

HTTP/2 came along recently and will gradually replace HTTP/1. Doesn’t make any difference to the internet for you, as a user… except for the automatic benefits. HTTP/2 makes use of lots of lovely new technology to make internet connections faster and websites load more quickly. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, HTTP/2 will only work over a secured connection: SSL (or TLS) protects the connection between your computer and the website, so that no-one can hack into it and nick your information. All positive stuff.

To help move all this along, the Let’s Encrypt certificate authority has been founded to allow anyone running a website to get a free SSL certificate. This means that their website can offer secure connections, thereby opening the flood gate to allow the use of HTTP/2.

My hosting provider – the same one we use at work – is Cyon GmbH in Switzerland. They are one of the first hosting companies to offer a direct, hassle-free and one-click installation of a free SSL certificate in their web hosting. Permanent Tourist is now running entirely over SSL thanks to their efforts. The changeover took around 5 minutes, including the SSL change in my hosting admin tool, and a couple of stupidly simple tweaks in WordPress.

As an added bonus, the Cyon servers are also some of the first which can serve websites via HTTP/2, so you should notice that the site is many degrees faster than other sites. And the server is also running the brand-new version 7 of PHP, which I will be implementing soon. That will kick the gear up another notch, so that not only the web pages but also server processing, which happens in the background, will also be run using rocket fuel.

(For an example of the speed of a site running over HTTP/2 and SSL from a PHP 7 server, give support.frappant.ch a try. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it when you click the link to another page.)