You may have seen http:// or https:// before a domain name in a browser’s URL bar while surfing the Internet. And, you might be wondering – what is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS in general?
In this article, we have discussed the major differences that will give you a better understanding of HTTP vs. HTTPS. Before discussing the differences, let’s understand exactly what HTTP and HTTPS are:
What is HTTP?
HTTP is an abbreviation for ‘HyperText Transfer Protocol’. It is a networking protocol used for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. HTTP is the foundation of data communication for World Wide Web (WWW); it means that it transfers the data (i.e., text, images, audio, video, etc.) on WWW.
In other words, HTTP establishes communication between different systems to transfer the hypertext from client-end to the server-end. It basically allows the transmission of data from a web server to a web browser in order to display web pages to the users.
HTTP is also known as a ‘stateless system‘ because each command is executed separately, without using the reference of the previous run command.
How does HTTP work?
HTTP works in the request and response cycles of the client requesting the web page. Suppose you want to access any webpage from the server using your web browser. You enter http:// in the browser’s URL bar before the domain, which tells the browser to connect over HTTP. The HTTP GET request is generated by the browser and sent across the Internet.
As soon as the original server receives the HTTP request, it generates an HTTP response back to the user’s browser. If the connection is successfully established with the response code HTTP/1.1 200 OK, a webpage will be provided on a browser. If there is a problem with the HTTP request or response, you will have a status code on your browser so that you can better troubleshoot the issue.
HTTP is considered a less secure connection. It is because HTTP requests are sent to the host server in plain text, whatever the user has entered into the text fields of the web page. This is risky in cases where the user enters important information such as credit card details or any other personal details. Hackers or anyone who is monitoring a session can easily read text data sent or received over HTTP.
Advantages of HTTP
• It can be implemented with other protocols on the Internet or other networks.
• Web pages are stored as a cache in computers and the Internet, making it easily and quickly accessible.
• It is platform-independent, thus, supports cross-platform porting.
• It does not require runtime support.
• It is usable on firewalls, increasing the potential for global applications.
• It is not connection-oriented, therefore, there will be no network overhead when creating and maintaining session state and information.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) is an encrypted version of HTTP. It is not actually the opposite of HTTP. Instead, it is an improved version of HTTP. HTTPS uses a combination of Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This establishes a secure encrypted connection between the host server and the browser.
In HTTPS, transactions are carried out with the help of a key-based encryption algorithm. The public key infrastructure (PKI) is used because it is supported by most web browsers, while the private key is used by the webserver of the particular website the user wants to access. The distribution of public keys is done through certificates that are maintained by web browsers.
When a client starts a connection with a host server, the two devices use the public and private key to agree on new keys, known as session keys, to encrypt further communications between them. Encryption keys are exchanged between the host server and the web browser before the actual data or hypertext.
How does HTTPS work?
Just like HTTP, HTTPS is also used to request web data and display it on the web browser. But, HTTPS has a slightly different working process. Unlike HTTP, HTTPS encrypts requests and responses so an intercepting hacker would not see the actual text a user has entered. Instead, the hacker will see random characters and would not be able to understand it due to the encryption.
The SSL certificate is responsible to encrypt the information that the user enters on the site. The information or data is converted into random code. In addition, TLS provides an extra layer of security. TLS helps provide data integrity, which helps prevent data from being modified or corrupted and authenticated, proving to your users that they are communicating with the intended website.
Advantages of HTTPS
• It encrypts the connection and helps users to do secure online transactions such as online banking.
• It uses SSL technology to protect user information from unauthorized sources which builds the trust of users.
• Typically, HTTPS uses the redirect option to provide increased security. This means that if a user enters http: // instead of https://, it will automatically redirect to an https:// and establish a secure connection.
• An independent authority verifies the identity of the owner of the certificate. Therefore, each SSL certificate contains unique, certified information about the certificate owner.
Note: Previously, HTTPS was only used by sites that have an online payment option. This was helpful in securing the credit/debit card details. However, in 2014, Google recommended sites to use HTTPS to achieve better search engine rankings. And after that, most sites switched to HTTPS. Nowadays, many websites prefer HTTPS.
Difference between HTTP and HTTPS
In general, HTTP and HTTPS are protocols. Using these protocols, a particular web site’s information is exchanged between the host server and the web browser. The main difference between HTTP and HTTPS is that HTTPS is a lot more secure than HTTP.
Now, let’s explore the difference between HTTP and HTTPS more deeply:
|It stands for ‘HyperText Transfer Protocol’.||It stands for ‘HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure’. An additional ‘S’ has been added to the abbreviation to specify ‘security’.|
|Data over HTTP is not secure. Data is vulnerable to hackers and cyber attackers.||Data over HTTPS is secure. It is designed to prevent hackers from accessing your critical information.|
|The default port number is 80, for communication.||Here, the default port number is 443.|
|In URLs, http:// is used before the domain name.||In URLs, https:// is used before the domain name.|
|HTTP works at the application layer.||HTTPS works at the transport layer.|
|It operates at TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)/ IP (Internet Protocol) level.||It does not have a separate protocol. It runs over HTTP but uses TLS/SSL encrypted connection.|
|HTTP websites do not require any kind of certificate.||HTTPS websites require SSL certificates.|
|No encryption is present in HTTP websites.||Encryption is present on HTTPS websites.|
|In HTTP, website speed is fast.||In HTTPS, website speed is slower due to redirects and data encryption. However, you can create accelerated mobile pages (AMP) with HTTPS that will boost website speed for smartphones and tablet users.|
|HTTP does not help in search engine optimization.||HTTPS helps in search engine optimization.|
|It is more suitable for websites designed for information consumption, such as a personal blog.||It is a good fit for websites that collect critical data such as credit /debit card details, personal information, etc.|
We have covered almost everything to explain the difference between HTTP and HTTPS and we hope that you can now easily find out if a website is running over HTTP or HTTPS.
If you are planning to launch a new website, it is better to use HTTPS. If you already have a site with HTTP, you can easily switch to HTTPS. Make sure that you follow the proper guidelines to avoid the mistakes of migration that most people make. This will provide you with a base level of website security and will also boost your search engine ranking.