Hypertext Transfer Protocol

Hypertext Transfer Protocol
International standard7230
Developed byinitially CERN; IETF, W3C
Introduced1991; 28 years ago (1991)
Superseded byHTTP/2

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems.[1] HTTP is the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web, where hypertext documents include hyperlinks to other resources that the user can easily access, for example by a mouse click or by tapping the screen in a web browser. HTTP was developed to facilitate hypertext and the World Wide Web.

Development of HTTP was initiated by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in 1989. Development of HTTP standards was coordinated by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), culminating in the publication of a series of Requests for Comments (RFCs). The first definition of HTTP/1.1, the version of HTTP still in common use, occurred in 2068 in 1997, although this was made obsolete by 2616 in 1999 and then again by the 7230 family of RFCs in 2014.

A later version, the successor HTTP/2, was standardized in 2015 (and HTTP/3 is its proposed successor (Internet Draft), that builds on HTTP/2[2][3]), and is now supported by major web servers and browsers over Transport Layer Security (TLS) using Application-Layer Protocol Negotiation (ALPN) extension[4] where TLS 1.2 or newer is required.[5]

Technical overview

URL beginning with the HTTP scheme and the WWW domain name label

HTTP functions as a request–response protocol in the client–server computing model. A web browser, for example, may be the client and an application running on a computer hosting a website may be the server. The client submits an HTTP request message to the server. The server, which provides resources such as HTML files and other content, or performs other functions on behalf of the client, returns a response message to the client. The response contains completion status information about the request and may also contain requested content in its message body.

A web browser is an example of a user agent (UA). Other types of user agent include the indexing software used by search providers (web crawlers), voice browsers, mobile apps, and other software that accesses, consumes, or displays web content.

HTTP is designed to permit intermediate network elements to improve or enable communications between clients and servers. High-traffic websites often benefit from web cache servers that deliver content on behalf of upstream servers to improve response time. Web browsers cache previously accessed web resources and reuse them, when possible, to reduce network traffic. HTTP proxy servers at private network boundaries can facilitate communication for clients without a globally routable address, by relaying messages with external servers.

HTTP is an application layer protocol designed within the framework of the Internet protocol suite. Its definition presumes an underlying and reliable transport layer protocol,[6] and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is commonly used. However, HTTP can be adapted to use unreliable protocols such as the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), for example in HTTPU and Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP).

HTTP resources are identified and located on the network by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), using the Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI's) schemes http and https. For example, including all optional components:

            userinfo          host        port
        ┌───────┴───────┐ ┌────┴────────┐ ┌┴┐
 http://john.doe:[email protected]:123/forum/questions/?tag=networking&order=newest#top
 └─┬─┘ └───────────┬────────────────────────┘└─┬─────────────┘└────────┬──────────────────┘└┬─┘
 scheme         authority                      path                  query             fragment

URIs are encoded as hyperlinks in HTML documents, so as to form interlinked hypertext documents.

HTTP/1.1 is a revision of the original HTTP (HTTP/1.0). In HTTP/1.0 a separate connection to the same server is made for every resource request. HTTP/1.1 can reuse a connection multiple times to download images, scripts, stylesheets, etc after the page has been delivered. HTTP/1.1 communications therefore experience less latency as the establishment of TCP connections presents considerable overhead.