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Definition: HTTP

(HyperText Transfer Protocol) The communications protocol used to connect to Web servers on the Internet or to servers on a local network if an intranet is used. The primary function of HTTP is to establish a connection with the server and send HTML pages back to the user's browser. HTTP is also used to download data from the server either to the browser or to any requesting application.

HTTP Secure
Today, HTTPS (HTTP Secure) is the encrypted version of HTTP and is generally mandatory (see HTTPS).

Addresses of websites begin with an https:// prefix; however, Web browsers typically default to the HTTPS protocol. For example, typing www.yahoo.com is the same as typing https://www.yahoo.com. In fact, only yahoo.com has to be typed in. The browser adds the rest.

A Stateless Connection
HTTP is a "stateless" request/response system. The connection is maintained between client and server only for the immediate request, and the connection is closed. After the HTTP client establishes a TCP connection with the server and sends it a request command, the server sends back its response and closes the connection.

The first version of HTTP caused considerable overhead. Each time a graphics file on the page was requested, a new protocol connection had to be established between the browser and the server. In HTTP Version 1.1, multiple files could be downloaded with the same connection. It also improved caching and made it easier to create virtual hosts (multiple websites on the same server). See HTTP/2, HTTP header and cookie.

Web Server Fundamentals
Web browsers communicate with Web servers via the TCP/IP protocol. The browser sends HTTP requests to the server, which responds by sending back headers (messages) and files (HTML pages, image files, Java applets, etc.). See HTTP header.

HTTP Links Can Be Lonnnnnnnnnng
An HTTP request can point to any Web page on any Web server, and the actual address can be very short or in some cases, extremely long, as in the following example. Although users might be bewildered viewing this link, the length does not matter. The HTTP protocol will deliver the page to the user if the address resolves to a valid page. See Bitly.