Although SSL for websites (HTTPS) has been commonplace for e-commerce sites for years, the vast majority of “ordinary” websites still use standard HTTP. In recent months, two things have happened which look set to change that:
- Firstly, on 8th April 2014 Microsoft finally ended support for Windows XP; and
- Secondly, two days ago, Google announced that HTTPS support would be seen as a positive signal when ranking websites in search results.
Whilst the importance of the second of these probably needs no further explanation, the relevance of the first may not be obvious.
Until now, one of the barriers to widespread adoption of SSL over HTTP is that, unlike non-SSL websites, each site requires its own IP address, and IP (or at least, IPv4) addresses are in short supply. This is because the HTTP request which specifies which website is being requested is only done after the SSL certificate has been presented, so if you have multiple sites on a single IP address, there is no way for the server to know which certificate to present.
A solution to this problem has existed for some years in the form of Server Name Indication (SNI). SNI is an extension to the SSL protocol, or more accurately its successor, the TLS protocol, which allows the site name to be included as part of the TLS negotiation so that the server can present the correct certificate.
Unfortunately, one widely-used platform had no support for SNI: Windows XP. With the ending of support for Windows XP, adopting SNI suddenly becomes a much more acceptable proposition.
Cheaper HTTPS hosting
The practical benefit of this is that hosting providers such as ourselves can offer much cheaper hosting of HTTPS sites, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Buy one of our SSL Certificates and we’ll add an SNI-based HTTPS service to your Hosting Account at no extra charge.