Understanding the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS

By Prometteur solutions 19 Min Read

Are you considering exploring the difference between HTTP and HTTPS? Or you just want to learn about how search engines perceive websites on both protocols?

Perhaps, you are even trying to get knowledge on the topic or a step-by-step guide on how to move from HTTP to HTTPS.

This article is for you.

This article explores the key difference between HTTP and HTTPS protocols. It details how HTTPS enhances security, encryption, and authentication compared to standard unencrypted HTTP.

The post also covers the process of transitioning sites to HTTPS and common mistakes to avoid when implementing it.

Read on to understand why HTTPS matters for protecting sensitive user data in transit and upholding essential privacy safeguards.

What is HTTP?

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) serves as the fundamental protocol that enables communication between web browsers and servers over the internet. When you type a website address into your browser’s address bar and hit enter, your browser initiates an HTTP request.

This request is to fetch and display the contents of that page from a remote web server. 

How Does HTTP Work?

The HTTP protocol operates on a simple request-response model. The client—your web browser—sends a request to a web server for a particular page or asset.

The server then processes that request and issues a corresponding response containing the requested content or an error message if unable to fulfil the request.

This repetitive request-response cycle drives all user interactions as you navigate between pages on an HTTP website.

Without any additional security provisions, HTTP transmits data in plain, unencrypted text between browsers and servers. This lack of encryption allows easy interception and monitoring of website traffic flowing over HTTP.

What are the Uses of HTTP?

Common uses of raw HTTP include:

  • Serving basic static informational web pages without interactive features
  • Transferring non-sensitive public data that requires no encryption
  • Powering web applications where no authentication or security represents a core requirement
  • Supporting legacy systems still operating on old protocols

In the early days of the internet, virtually all websites operated over plain HTTP without encryption. As online commerce, banking, and privacy concerns emerged, secure encrypted HTTPS websites became vital to providing safe user experiences.

The vulnerabilities of HTTP mean many organizations aim to run sites fully over HTTPS instead of redirecting all HTTP requests automatically. However, HTTP still maintains a wide range of use cases today in domains not handling sensitive information.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It represents the secure, encrypted communication protocol version of HTTP used to secure modern websites and web applications.

The S at the end of HTTPS stands for “Secure,” denoting enhancements made to the standard HTTP protocol to add encryption and website identity validation capabilities.

How Does HTTPS Work?

HTTPS websites work by encrypting all traffic transmitted between web browsers and servers using SSL/TLS encryption provided by digital certificates. HTTPS connections begin with a handshake process to establish a unique encrypted session between a browser and a server validated by a digital certificate. The process is also called HTTPS handshake.

Both the request and response get encrypted before being sent across the internet. 

This vital encryption protects the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive user data flowing to and from websites and web applications. It prevents network sniffing attacks attempting to steal usernames, passwords, financial information, or other private details from a malicious third party.

HTTPS connections also validate the authenticity and trusted identity of websites through SSL/TLS certificates digitally signed by trusted certificate authorities who verify site owners. Users can confirm sites prove legitimate ownership of their domain and have not gotten compromised by attackers with self-signed certificates. This prevents sophisticated phishing scams.

What are the Uses of HTTPS?

Common uses of HTTPS include:

  • Securing login pages to protect user credentials and access tokens from interception
  • Encrypting e-commerce and checkout pages to safeguard financial data
  • Protecting any web pages transmitting private user data requiring confidentiality protections
  • Validating identities of major sites to build user trust and prevent fraud

Today, government portals, banking apps, healthcare platforms, and most major companies run fully over HTTPS by default. They do so via strict security policies. Google also favours HTTPS websites within search engine results pages due to enhanced authenticity and security.

Meaning sites can improve organic visibility by migrating fully to HTTPS across all web pages.

Differences Between HTTP and HTTPS

The core differences between HTTP and HTTPS are in the areas of security, encryption and authentication. Let us take a closer look at them in this section.

Differences Between HTTP and HTTPS in Security

The most fundamental difference between HTTP and HTTPS comes down to security protections for websites and web applications. This is very evident in websites where HTTPS transmits data privately through encrypted SSL/TLS connections whereas HTTP sends unencrypted data in plain vulnerable text.

This difference makes HTTPS exponentially more secure than raw HTTP.

The encryption applied on all traffic flowing over HTTPS connections allows vital protection of sensitive user information during transmission between browsers and servers. This includes safeguarding details like financial account numbers, medical records, government identification numbers, usernames and passwords.

Without encryption, all these sensitive details will be in raw readable text when sent over standard HTTP connections. This lack of encryption introduces severe vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities that allow relatively easy interception, eavesdropping, manipulation or impersonation attacks on HTTP traffic by cybercriminals or surveillance entities.

Conversely, the encrypted SSL/TLS connections implemented uniformly across HTTPS websites and applications provide essential security controls.

These enforce vital confidentiality, integrity and authentication assurances before transmitting sensitive transactions or private communications:

  • Confidentiality – Encryption prevents unauthorized access or sniffing of data during transit
  • Integrity – Encryption detects tampering attempts and data corruption
  • Authentication – Certificates confirm site identity and establish trust

For transmitting valuable business data or supporting customer platforms, HTTPS remains imperative for preventing catastrophic breaches that cripple consumer trust and enable irreparable financial damage.

Differences Between HTTP and HTTPS in Encryption

HTTPS secures websites by encrypting all bi-directional traffic exchanges between web browsers and servers. This is evident in the use of either industry-standard Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption protocols provided by digital certificates.

This encryption applies to strong 256-bit ciphers which is an Advanced Encryption Standard. It enables the entire scrambling of plain data into ciphertext as it transits between endpoints, preventing unauthorized access or sniffing attacks. It enforces essential confidentiality protections.

In contrast, standard HTTP has zero inherent encryption capabilities. All data, including sensitive information gets transmitted in completely unencrypted plain vulnerable text when using basic HTTP. This gives room for easy viewing by anybody intercepting traffic on open Wi-Fi networks or across ISP infrastructure through a practice known as “man-in-the-middle attacks.”

The immense difference between HTTP and HTTPS in encryption represents the most crucial security distinction between them. To this end, HTTPS is exponentially more secure.

What Does Encryption Provide?

Encryption provides the fundamental assurances that are needed for safeguarding sensitive user information. These include financial transactions, medical records, government identification numbers, usernames and passwords among others.

It happens as data shuttles between endpoints and without it, everything remains nakedly exposed over the internet.

Lacking encryption on login pages allows easy credential theft as well. This can easily enable account takeovers or unauthorised access. For example, sending credit card payment data over HTTP can lead to mass payments fraud.

HTTP limitations directly prevent secure e-commerce, banking, social media, and webmail access without attempting to implement add-on security controls using third-party services. However, these remain inferior to native HTTPS protections.

Mandating systemwide HTTPS across entire websites using uniformly applied SSL/TLS encryption represents a foundational internet security precaution. This is very much important for authentic websites and web applications that transact sensitive information or communications.

Looking at the difference between HTTP and HTTPS in encryption; we can say that it forms the cornerstone behind healthy data protection in the modern digital economy.

Differences Between HTTP and HTTPS Authentication

HTTPS verifies website identity and establishes trusted connections using SSL/TLS server certificates digitally signed by certificate authorities to prevent fraud. This authentication validates sites that prove legitimate ownership of their domains.

On the other hand, HTTP has no native authentication methods. This means that users cannot confirm the legitimacy or security of plain HTTP sites which exposes different risks. These are in the areas of spoofing attacks, phishing pages, or transmitting data to scam websites disguised as the real deal.

This authentication represents a vital difference between HTTP and HTTPS in building user trust and safe online products. Authentication prevents sophisticated identity deception attacks.

Without certificates, fake duplicate websites can easily impersonate banks, webmail, e-commerce vendors to steal login credentials or payment data. HTTPS certificates provide the essential proof that allow users to distinguish and avoid fraudulent websites despite convincingly disguising branding.

Similarly, inside corporate environments, leadership can mandate HTTPS internally to validate all employee traffic flows strictly through authentic websites approved by security policies. With such in place, there can be cases of blocking unrecognized sites lacking certificates vetted by network defenders.

Together with encryption, authentication allows HTTPS to secure online transactions and site access. This works through verified trusted pathways that plainly visible HTTP connections cannot reliably provide across inherently vulnerable open internet infrastructure.

The Impact of HTTP and HTTPS in SEO: SEO Benefits of HTTPS

According to Radd, “Site security is actually one of the many ranking signals that search engines like Google use to help rank and understand websites”.

The use of HTTPS and SSL certificates has become an increasingly important ranking factor for search engines like Google. This has been part of the SEO trend over the last several years. Google has made it clear that HTTPS should be considered a baseline requirement for all websites. They also mention that HTTPS is an integral part of modern search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.

Websites served over HTTPS connections provide better user experience and security. This is part of what search engines want to promote and reward in rankings.

What are the SEO Benefits of HTTPS?

Some of the key SEO benefits of migrating to HTTPS include:

  • Improved Search Engine Rankings

Google and other engines may give a slight ranking boost to sites using HTTPS. Especially on mobile devices or in local search results. SSL helps affirm the signal of trust and safety.

  • Positive UX Signals

HTTPS signals to visitors and crawlers that security is taken seriously, thereby establishing trust. This leads to better CTRs, time on site, and lower bounce rates which search engines weigh heavily.

  • Full Use of Browser Features

Many browser features like geolocation, notifications, service workers, and technologies like AMP are only available on encrypted HTTPS connections. This is due to security policies. This allows websites to leverage those experiences and capabilities in their web development.

  • Future-Proofing

As the web progresses toward being 100% encrypted, migrating to HTTPS future-proofs websites against potential catastrophes. These may include browser warnings, loss of functionality, and degradation of search performance as a result of not supporting it. HTTPS brings sites up to modern standards.

In short, all websites, including blogs should migrate to HTTPS wherever possible for the user experience and search ranking advantages.

The minimal costs of SSL certificates and setup are well worth the array of long-term benefits outlined above. Treat HTTPS support as essential in any SEO or web development strategy moving forward.

How to Switch from HTTP to HTTPS

The proper implementation of HTTPS is extremely important for several reasons. These include; providing secure encrypted connections, upholding SEO integrity, and preventing issues post-launch.

Rushing through setup and leaving gaps in configuration often results in problems down the road. The losses can even range from loss of traffic to security vulnerabilities.

So, we advise that you take everything easy and slow. Take your time to understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, this will help you a lot in your journey.

Here is a Step-by-Guide to Switching from HTTP to HTTPS

Obtaining an SSL Certificate

The first fundamental step is purchasing and installing an SSL certificate from a reputable certificate authority. The SSL certificate enables the encryption protocols necessary for powering HTTPS connections.

It works by tying the domain to the certificate files containing cryptographic keys. Depending on validation levels, certificates typically cost $50-150 per year.

Updating Site References Globally

Having purchased and installed the SSL certificate, the next step is to update site references globally.

All references to site pages and assets across all platforms need updating to use the new HTTPS URLs instead of HTTP. This includes sitemaps, canonical tags, internal links, CMS configurations, API endpoints, server-side code, etc.

Redirects should also get configured to route traffic from old HTTP pages to new HTTPS pages. This is to uphold SEO and prevent dead links or errors.

Configuring Web Server Settings 

The next step is the configuration stage. This has to do with the web server settings.

The web server software powering the website (such as Apache or Nginx) will need some configuration. This will enable routing traffic through the SSL certificate and handle encrypted HTTPS connections.

The specific steps vary across setups but typically involve tying certificate keys to the site’s virtual hosts or origin address.

Forcing Site Delivery Over HTTPS

Furthermore, move to the next step. In this case, it is the site delivery over HTTPS. On both the front and back end, settings must enforce HTTPS as the exclusive protocol.

This includes enabling HSTS, and reconfiguring CMS and other administrative systems to only accept HTTPS connections. It also requires updating application code like load balancers to prevent any incoming HTTP requests from getting handled.

Testing Core Site Functionality

Now that you have performed all previous steps, it’s time to test. All site functionality needs thorough testing while accessing the site exclusively over HTTPS connections. The essence of this is to identify any issues with caching, cookies, and third-party services making calls to the previous HTTP endpoint.

It also targets externally referenced insecurities blocking complete encryption. With this step, all warnings or errors must be addressed accordingly prior to the full public launch.

Avoiding Common Mistakes when Migrating to HTTPS

  1. Failing to properly implement global reference updates to HTTPS can lead to mixed content errors or accessing invalid resources.
  2. Not configuring redirects from old HTTP URLs to new HTTPS pages impacts SEO and user experience.
  3. Allowing mixed insecure content to persist either internally or through third parties hinders achieving full encryption.
  4. Not functionally testing the live site sufficiently frequently causes post-launch bugs and loss of traffic.

Therefore, switching site protocols represents a major upgrade. Approaching plans for migrating to HTTPS with care and attention to detail in both technical implementation and testing will ensure a smooth transition that unlocks the array of user experience, marketing and security benefits.


As the internet continues evolving, the difference between HTTP and HTTPS will always take significance in security, encryption and authentication. HTTP’s lack of native security provisions emphasizes why HTTPS has become the de-facto foundation enabling trust and safety across modern digital experiences. Encryption and authentication safeguard what users value most – their data, identity and transactions.

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