Goodbye HTTP, Hello HTTPS
January 20, 2017 – by Per Christensson
On Wednesday, January 18th, PC.net underwent the biggest change since I renamed the site from Sharpened.net to PC.net on May 1, 2012. Once again the website has a new URL. Instead of http://pc.net, the new URL is https://pc.net. Pretty dramatic, huh?
While it is a small change, this means all traffic to PC.net will be handled through the HTTPS protocol instead of boring old HTTP. So what exactly is HTTPS? It is a secure version of HTTP, the standard protocol used for accessing webpages. It runs connections through SSL, which encrypts the communication. Therefore, your connection to PC.net will now be encrypted, meaning no one can eavesdrop on your browsing or see what you submit via the contact form, for instance. Otherwise, it should have no noticeable effect on your PC.net experience.
HTTPS is super important for e-commerce sites and websites where you can log in with a username and password. It protects your personal information from being intercepted by someone on your network running a packet sniffing program or other malicious software. For PC.net, this isn't really a concern.
So why the switch? Well Google, the self-proclaimed authority of webmaster guidelines for websites around the world, has encouraged websites to use HTTPS since August 6, 2014. The goal, I suppose, is to make the web more secure, preventing data theft and the alteration of webpage content between the server and end user. A noble goal, but also a pretty big hassle for the average webmaster. Historically, moving to HTTPS has involved buying a secure certificate, authenticating your identity as an individual or organization, and installing the certificate for your domain on the server. Not an easy task for the everyday webmaster.
Fortunately, those of us managing our websites with cPanel, a common website management system for Linux, now have an easy way to secure our websites. A feature called AutoSSL was recently added to cPanel v58, which automatically generates and renews certificates for any website managed by cPanel. I decided to test it out and it worked surprising well.
I enabled AutoSSL for PC.net, then made the following change to my .htaccess file (the most nerdy part of the switch). The code below directs all http:// requests (port 80) to https:// (port 443) without affecting the rest of the URL.
So now all traffic to PC.net must use HTTPS. It will be interesting to see how the change affects the search ranking of the website and the impact it has on traffic, if any. If there is a noticeable change in SEO, I'll be sure to follow up with the fascinating findings. For now, I hope you enjoy browsing the new and improved secure version of PC.net.