February 3, 2017 | Design | by Alexian Chiavegato

Making the Move to HTTPS

Surprisingly, HTTPS has been around for over two decades yet just recently it has been getting quite a lot of hype. HTTPS is a relatively simple way to make a site more secure but most sites have not yet made the switch. In fact, according to a 2016 report 79 of the top 100 non-Google websites don’t use HTTPS and 67 of them use outdated technology or no data encryption at all.

HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP, the familiar protocol used to access web pages across the Internet. The origins of the HTTPS protocol date all the way back to 1994, and it’s long been familiar to users of ecommerce and banking sites, where it’s used to protect financial information. Until recently, general publishers didn’t see HTTPS as vital to their success. Now, more publications are starting to adopt the practice and transfer their websites to the secure protocol.

Two of the latest major publications to take these steps are The New York Times and The Guardian. The Guardian announced its switch in late November of last year in a blog post presenting the advantages of the platform and the challenges it faced in switching over. The New York Times followed suit in mid-January with its own announcement.

There are certain themes running through both announcements that highlight the main advantages of this move for publishers—that is, it addresses the issues of security and privacy. With HTTPS, Internet service providers or other third parties are not able to access as much information about readers. Internet users care about security online, and HTTPS provides reassurance that they’re safe while accessing any publication. This also protects the publisher, preventing cases like this one, in which Internet carriers inserted advertisements into pages without the publisher’s knowledge or consent.

Another change that spurred this movement is Google’s initiative to deem any website that fails to support HTTPS as non-secure. Google will dock any site that doesn’t use the more secure protocol, which could have major implications for the site’s SEO. Both The Guardian and The New York Times cited this as a reason for moving to HTTPS.

Finally, if you aim to take advantage of exciting new publishing platforms like Google AMP, your site must use HTTPS technology. This blog has looked at the importance of progressive web apps, an exciting new technology that promises to boost the user experience on your publication. Advances like progressive websites and access to app content without downloading the app are poised to become more common across the Internet, and HTTPS is necessary to implement them all.

HTTPS was once something of a luxury reserved largely for online financial transactions. This is no longer the case, as companies like Google speed up the transition from luxury to necessity. The advantages of HTTPS are numerous, while the disadvantages are hard to find. Providing a better, more secure experience for your publication and your readers is a win for everyone.

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