What is the The Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP?

It seems an obvious question, and one that many people think ought to be taken for granted, but surprisingly many people, even in the technology industry, don't know what HTTP stands for, or the history of this protocol.

Tim Berners Lee and his team are credited with inventing the first version, along with html, and the necessary server and text based web browser technology and their work on the "WorldWideWeb" project that launched it into general use.

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, is the most widely used Application layer protocol in the world today. It forms the basis of the World Wide Web. Its main objective is to provide a method for the retrieval of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and other application from any Web sites.

HTTP was first developed in the early 1990s and has been through three main documented versions:

HTTP/0.9: A simplistic first implementation of the protocol that only supported the option toget a Web page, rarely used today.

HTTP/1.0: Ratified by the IETF as RFC 1945 in 1996. Keepalive Disabled by default. This version added many data fields, known as headers to the specification. This allowed for other information passing between the client and server, alongside the request and consequent page.

HTTP/1.1: Defined in RFC 2068 by the IETF, version 1.1 implemented a number of improvements over and above the 1.0 specification. One of the main improvements of 1.1 over 1.0 was the implementation of techniques such as persistent TCP connections, pipelining,better proxy and cache control to improve performance within HTTP-based applications.

Final fun fact for the pop quiz minded. HTTP had a competing alternative in it's early days. It was called gopher and but for many reasons lost ground to HTTP in the early 90s. It's still in use by some enthusiasts today.