The use of the HTTP protocol as opposed to its secure version (HTTPS) is becoming a major issue in most contemporary sites. More and more applications and content management systems enforce the use of HTTPS, and the former “unsafe” HTTP is regarded as not advisable even by search engines. The use of the secure HTTPS protocol adds not only a layer of security but also authenticity. This guide shows what is the difference between these two protocols and why do they matter. We at Howtohosting.guide will also explore the pros and cons of each one and how they fit into most websites.
What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol and is the main standard through which we can access the Internet via the browser. In simple terms, it is a machine language that structures how the data is transferred between computers. When someone types in an address in their browser, the software will automatically retrieve it by following the rules set in the HTTP protocol.
Connections that are done via the HTTP are made on demand, which means that every single request when completed will end the network transmission. When it was devised in the early days of the World Wide Web (WWW) this was the connection of choice as it allowed the machines to have a convenient method of communications. However as the complexity of the Internet grew, so computer crimes started to happen. HTTP does not encrypt the data, meaning that the transmitted information can be potentially intercepted.
One of the most popular types of criminal activity is known as the man-in-the-middle attack – it is the spying of the network stream between two parties that use non-encrypted channels of communication, namely this new protocol.
HTTPS is the newer protocol that adds a “Secure” feature by enforcing TLS (Transport Layer Security) that is to be used during all network transmissions. TLS is a strict and strong security standard that adds in a powerful encryption cipher to process the requested information.
Pros and cons between the two standards
HTTP as the older standard is enforced by default on all web pages, this is the behavior that browsers expect. Unless the newer version of the protocol is specifically implemented and enabled on a given page (or overall site), the plain version will be loaded.
The main advantage of the secure protocol remains the security aspects, it enables encryption of the data that is loaded. Another technical difference is that the sites need to be labeled with the required prefix: http:// for HTTP versions and https:// for HTTPS. They also operate on different port numbers, an important factor when it comes to security.
One of the key disadvantages is its complexity in setting up – this requires key server configuration files changes, sometimes in the pages themselves (especially when placing links), and other areas. This may be difficult for some, as it may not be a straightforward procedure.
Security and SEO Aspects
Contemporary search engines view HTTPS variant sites as legitimate and authentic, especially if they are hosted on top-level domain names and include verified security certificates. The use of this technology is also a requirement with some of the applications and services that are hosted on the web.
In terms of security, if the newer standard is to be enforced, it is usually part of a wider part of implementations that are done to safeguard the site and its visitors from common malicious threats. This can include any of the following website features:
- Firewall – Most hosting providers allow the web administrators to choose how incoming and outgoing connections are filtered from potential threats. The ports that are used to communicate the web protocols should be accessible, while other technologies and functions can remain restricted.
- Network Analysis – The hosting providers and customers that have full access to the data stream can monitor the online sessions for any potential abuse.
- Web Applications and Services Configuration – If any of the installed programs and services depend on the secure implementation, the administrators should test configuration, ensuring that proper redirects have been made. This is due to the fact that some of the popular content management systems (like WordPress) and their plugins require strict running over HTTPS only.
In terms of Search engine optimization (SEO) the secure version is always the preferred version of a web page. Website administrators should not that practically all of the well-known search engines perform a validation check during the ranking operations. This is a prescribed sequence done by the search engine bots that check for important information during its initial access to a given site. Its main goal is to check for a valid security certificate, validate the posted information, and also to check for the presence of an HTTPS version. This marks that it is safe to transfer potentially private information to and from the website.
Having HTTPS enabled on your site is not only compulsory, in the case of some applications, but also quite important for presenting trusted and safe-to-use web content. Usually, website owners do not have to reconfigure the servers they use, they can implement the necessary code and the redirection will happen automatically. We highly recommend migration to the newer protocol If you already haven’t.