HTTP/2 Demystified at the Front Edge

HTTP/2 Demystified at the Front Edge

Since earlier this year, Netsuite has been hosting a meetup group called "The Front Edge", aptly subtitled: "Kitchener-Waterloo's perpetual web technology conference". On the last Thursday of every month, we bring in a speaker to deliver a presentation about something related to front-end technology. This group is one of many ways that Netsuite interacts with the local technology community.

Consider the difference between a tech conference, versus a local meetup like the Front Edge. For a typical tech conference, you'll pay several hundred, perhaps over a thousand dollars for two days of instruction. There are often travel and lodging expenses. Over two days, you might attend 6 sessions per day, clocking about an hour each. Sometimes they provide food. Conferences are good for networking to meet other people who share your vocation.

Contrastingly, a local "perpetual conference" like the Front Edge provides *more* than 12 hours of instruction (per year), it's spread out over an entire year (less domestic disruption), it's near home (no travel or lodging expenses), it's free (thanks to Netsuite and other sponsors), you meet people who do the same thing you do (same), and ... there's food (yum).

We always bring in fascinating speakers. On Thursday September 24, I had an opportunity to take the podium myself. I delivered a presentation in two parts, titled "Demystifying HTTP" and "Demystifying HTTP/2".

Most of our guests are primarily concerned with front-end technology. So it's common that most will understand how to make an AJAX request, and will know enough about HTTP verbs and response status codes to be able to create compelling interactive applications, whether browser-based web apps or mobile apps using RESTful APIs. However adept one might be at building a client-side app, it's easy to toss off an HTTP request without comprehending the complex magic that makes it travel through the wires to the server and back. Demystifying HTTP is a "primer" for people who know how to work HTTP, but may not know how HTTP works. It begins by explaining how electricity can send data signals, and then builds upon that to give an overview of how IP, TCP, and HTTP/1 do their "magic".

The second presentation, Demystifying HTTP/2, starts where the first leaves off, and outlines the new features of HTTP/2:

  • Multiplexing
  • Binary syntax
  • TLS encryption
  • HPACK header compression
  • Server Push
  • Transmission interruption without closing a connection

The slides are there for you to peruse. However when you flip through a slide deck you're only seeing the bullet points, not the oral explanations; and you're also missing the audience interaction that is so much a part of a meetup talk. Whereas at a large conference you might have a few minutes for questions at the end of a talk before you're hurried to the next session, these intimate gatherings lend themselve to questions and discussion throughout, and then for quite a while afterwards.

If you're interested in web technology, no matter what your level of expertise, a meetup like this one will enhance your skills, and accelerate your career. If you're already employed, your employer will be impressed by your passion and devotion to the craft of app development, just because you show up to this event in your spare time. If you're not employed... you might find that your next career opportunity is sitting at the table next to you. Come out to the next one!

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