Configure HTTP/2 on Apache
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HTTP/2 is an update to the original Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) specification offering improvements in efficiency and latency. The new version, which adds several useful features, is compatible with browsers that only support HTTP/1. HTTP/2 has many advantages and no significant drawbacks, so upgrading to the new version is recommended. This guide explains how to configure and use HTTP/2 on an Apache server and how to test it is working.
HTTP/2 is supported by the majority of the most popular websites and is considered the current standard. It dramatically improves speed and latency due to optimizations in how data is transmitted. However, most of the changes are internal, and users do not have to make any adjustments. HTTP/2 still uses the same fields, format, and status codes, and serves the same function as the original HTTP service. It continues to use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) for the transport layer and supports all contemporary browsers, web servers, and proxies. A negotiation mechanism helps the client and server elect whether to use HTTP/2 or fall back to HTTP/1.1. Most clients require data encryption whenever HTTP/2 is used. This means HTTPS is the de facto standard in HTTP/2.
For more comprehensive information and a collection of resources about HTTP/2, see our An Introduction to HTTP/2 guide.
Before You Begin
Familiarize yourself with Linode’s Getting Started with Linode guide and complete the steps for setting your Linode’s hostname and timezone.
This guide uses
sudowherever possible. Complete the sections of Linode’s How to Secure Your Server to create a standard user account, harden SSH access and remove unnecessary network services. Do not follow the Configure a Firewall section yet as this guide includes firewall rules specifically for an OpenVPN server.
Update your system:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
Ensure you possess a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) for the website. The DNS records for the site must point to the Linode server.
NoteThe steps in this guide are written for non-root users. Commands that require elevated privileges are prefixed with
sudo. If you are not familiar with the
sudocommand, see the Linux Users and Groups guide.
A Summary of the HTTP/2 on Apache Configuration Process
The following high-level steps are involved in configuring HTTP/2 on Apache. The commands in this guide work on Ubuntu systems, but are generally applicable to all Linux distributions.
- Install Apache
- Install the Necessary PHP Components
- Configure Apache to Support HTTP/2
- Enable HTTPS Support
apache2 -v command to determine whether Apache is installed. If it is already present, the command indicates what version is running. In this case, skip this section and proceed to the
Install the Necessary PHP Components step. If the command displays an error, Apache is not yet installed. For more information about Apache, see Linode’s
Apache Configuration Basics guide.
NoteHTTP/2 support requires Apache version 2.4.17 or higher.
Update the system packages. Reboot the system if advised to do so.
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt install apache2
Verify Apache is active using
systemctl status apache2
apache2.service - The Apache HTTP Server Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/apache2.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Tue 2021-05-04 13:01:06 UTC; 50s ago
(Optional) To configure Apache so it does not launch automatically whenever the server reboots, disable the entry in
systemctl. To configure it to activate on reboot again, use the
systemctl disable apache2
ufwfirewall to enhance security. Allow
Apache Fullallows both HTTP and HTTPS requests through.
sudo ufw allow OpenSSH sudo ufw allow 'Apache Full'
sudo ufw enable
Confirm the webserver is working. Type the address of the Linode server into the address bar of the browser. If Apache is working properly, the browser displays the default Apache landing page. The connection is still using HTTP/1.1 at this point.
Install the Necessary PHP Components
To properly configure Apache, you need to upgrade some of your system’s
php modules so they are compatible with HTTP/2.
php7.4-fpmmodule. Disable the older version of this module and enable the new one.
sudo apt-get install php7.4-fpm sudo a2dismod php7.4 sudo a2enconf php7.4-fpm
NoteIf PHP was not previously installed, the message
ERROR: Module php7.4 does not exist!is displayed when
php7.4is disabled. You can ignore this message.
sudo a2enmod proxy_fcgi
Configure Apache to Support HTTP/2
To enable HTTP/2 support, enable some additional modules and configure the virtual server to allow the protocol.
mpm_preforkmodule, which is not compatible with HTTP/2. This module might already be disabled.
sudo a2dismod mpm_prefork
sudo a2enmod mpm_event
sudo a2enmod ssl
http2module to activate HTTP/2 support.
sudo a2enmod http2
Restart Apache to apply all the changes.
sudo systemctl restart apache2
Verify Apache is still active using the
systemctl status apache2
.conffile that contains the
Protocolsdefinition. Depending on the installation, this is either found at
/etc/apache2/mods-available/http2.conf. To find the exact file, change to the root directory for Apache and search for the “Protocols” keyword with the
grepcommand. Select the file that already contains a “Protocols” configuration. If there are no matches, choose the base
cd /etc/apache2 grep -r Protocols .
NoteEarlier versions of Apache have a different file and directory structure. The main Apache
.conffile might be located at
Edit this file and add the
h2cprotocols to the “Protocols” definition. Apache tries to negotiate the protocols in the order they are listed. Placing
h2first prioritizes HTTP/2 over HTTP/1.1.
- File: /etc/apache2/mods-available/http2.conf
1 2 3 4
... Protocols h2 h2c http/1.1 ...
NoteHTTP/2 support is typically configured on a system-wide basis. If you only want to enable HTTP/2 for one site, add the
h2 h2cprotocols to the virtual server entry for the site instead. For more information about Apache, see Linode’s Apache Configuration Basics guide.
Enable HTTPS Support
Most clients only support HTTP/2 if encryption is enabled, so HTTPS must be enabled to use it. HTTPS allows for website authentication and ensures all data is transmitted privately. To accept HTTPS requests, a website must possess a public key certificate signed by a trusted certificate authority. This certificate ensures the owner operates the website in question.
Let’s Encrypt allows website owners to easily generate certificates. The Certbot tool automates the entire certificate-granting operation. It identifies all of the relevant domains and manages the challenge requests and the granting process. It also makes all necessary changes to the Apache configuration.
Install Certbot using the
snap utility. Snap is pre-installed on Ubuntu.
Run the following commands to update Snap. Verify the current version.
sudo snap install core sudo snap refresh core snap version
NoteIf Snap is not already installed, install it using the command
sudo apt install snapd.
Remove any existing Certbot packages to avoid possible conflicts.
sudo apt-get remove certbot
sudo snap install --classic certbot
The Snap module confirms Certbot is installed.
certbot 1.12.0 from Certbot Project (certbot-eff) installed
Configure a symbolic link to the Certbot directory.
sudo ln -s /snap/bin/certbot /usr/bin/certbot
Run Certbot to generate certificates for each domain. You can create multiple certificates with one command by specifying the
-doption in front of each domain. Substitute your own domain name in place of
example.comthroughout the following section.
sudo certbot --apache -d example.com -d www.example.com
Certbot displays updates about the requests and challenges and then confirms the domains are successfully enabled. You might be required to supply some additional information if you have never used Certbot before.
Requesting a certificate for example.com and www.example.com ... Deploying Certificate to VirtualHost /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/example.com-le-ssl.conf Deploying Certificate to VirtualHost /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/example.com-le-ssl.conf - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Congratulations! You have successfully enabled <https://example.com> and <https://www.example.com> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ...
Restart Apache to apply the changes.
sudo systemctl restart apache2
Verify HTTP/2 Support is Enabled on Apache
To confirm Apache is using HTTP/2, visit the website using any browser, and use the developer tools to inspect the incoming packets. The following instructions demonstrate this technique on Firefox. Each browser has its own method of inspecting incoming packets. Consult the browser’s documentation for more details.
Visit the domain using Firefox.
Open the Firefox Developer Tools. Select Tools followed by Browser Tools and then Web Developer Tools. This opens a new panel at the bottom of the browser.
Select the Network tab, and reload the page again.
This displays a list of several rows. Click on the row corresponding to the base domain. This reveals a new panel on the bottom right. The Headers tab appears by default.
If HTTP/2 is working, the
OKand the version is
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