HTTP vs. HTTPS – What’s the difference?


It seems as though the stories involving Internet privacy and security are never-ending, and many nations are strengthening their power over the freedom of the Internet. But are popular websites doing anything about the drop in user views and activity from these censored countries? The answer is yes, and you may not have even realized it.

You probably recognize the commonly used acronym “HTTP” that appears in a browser’s address bar, but do you know what it even stands for? To fully understand the step towards better data management that websites like PayPal, Wikipedia and even Easynews are taking, you must first understand what HTTP is and what it does.

What is HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and is an application layer protocol. In simpler terms, it is the protocol over which information is sent from a user’s web browser to the website they are visiting. The data that is being communicated between the browser and the website is sent over in plain text, meaning that if someone intercepted the connection between the two, they would easily be able to see the information you were both viewing and sending on the website. This is especially dangerous when users are filling out sensitive information, like a credit card number at checkout on Amazon, or entering location information on Facebook.

The Shift to HTTPS

While HTTPS is essentially the same concept as HTTP, the “S” harbors one big difference between the two: security. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, and instead of acting as its own application layer protocol, it uses separate protocols called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security).

Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer browser interfaces display padlock icons

HTTP and even HTTPS are not concerned with how information gets from point A to point B; however, the secure sockets layer that HTTPS uses ensures that the information travels through a safe tunnel to its destination, without concerning itself with the actual data that it is sending. The SSL also encrypts the information that is being sent, which means that the true meaning of the data (credit card numbers, personal information, etc.) is very difficult to be cracked by anyone trying to see the information. Nowadays, the majority of web browsers support HTTPS for more secure Internet browsing. Browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox will display a padlock icon to identify a secure HTTPS connection to a website. Just like with web browsers, there are millions of websites that support HTTPS so that users can view and send information safely without a third party shoving its way into their business. So what does this mean for Easynews? Well, since we use SSL encryption in our HTTP Usenet browser, your text article and binary downloads are encrypted and secure.

Best of all, HTTPS benefits users with faster speeds and connections than HTTP. This is because websites supporting HTTPS have already been certified as secure and are merely tunneled to the user. On the other hand, the unencrypted HTTP is typically filtered, cached, or scanned, which means there is more data to send over the browser. Want to test the speeds for yourself? Visit HTTP vs. HTTPS to compare web page load times for these two different protocols and you can be the judge!

It goes without saying why HTTPS is deemed the preferred protocol when accessing websites, but just because a website uses such SSL encryption does not totally safeguard Internet users from phishing and other schemes. Unlike a VPN, SSL is an encryption protocol that is used in-browser, meaning that any other non-browser based Internet activity can still be intercepted and breached. Remember that a VPN is an encrypted tunnel and ALL of the data running through that connection is impenetrable to the outside world.
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Did you take the HTTP vs. HTTPS Speed Test? Share your results in the comments below!