Glossary definition of HyperText Transport Protocol

Also known as: HTTP

HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) is the protocol that powers the World Wide Web. It specifies a standard for communication between clients (called user agents in the standard) and servers, and was originally intended for the transfer of HTML documents, hence the name HyperText Transfer Protocol. HTTP is primarily a TCP / IP protocol although can work over other transport layers, and is the de facto protocol for downloading web pages.

HTTP is defined in two main documents; RFC 2616 and, to a lesser extent, RFC 2068. HTTP was only standardised in 1994, and the current version-which offers huge advancements over the original, including performance enhancements such as stable persistent connections-was standardised in 1999. We cant do the full capabilities of HTTP justice within the scope of this glossary; heres a brief summary of the standard from the abstract of the HTTP / 1.1 specification.

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. It is a generic, stateless, protocol which can be used for many tasks beyond its use for hypertext, such as name servers and distributed object management systems, through extension of its request methods, error codes and headers. A feature of HTTP is the typing and negotiation of data representation, allowing systems to be built independently of the data being transferred.

HTTP has been in use by the World-Wide Web global information initiative since 1990. This specification defines the protocol referred to as HTTP / 1.1, and is an update to RFC 2068.