• Thursday, February 15, 2018

Google just announced that beginning in July 2018, with the release of Chrome 68, web pages loaded without HTTPS will be marked as “not secure”.

More than half of web visitors will soon see this warning when browsing unencrypted HTTP sites, according to data from Cloudflare’s edge that shows 56.62% of desktop requests originate from Chrome. Users presented with this warning will be less likely to interact with these sites or trust their content, so it’s imperative that site operators not yet using HTTPS have a plan to do so by July.


How did we get here (and why)?

To those who have followed the Chrome team’s public statements, this announcement comes as no surprise. Google has been gearing up for this change since 2014, as Chrome boss Parisa Tabriz tweeted and Chris Palmer memorialized in a widely distributed email. While this step is an important and potentially jarring one for users, it’s by no means the last step that Google will take to influence website administrator behavior for the better.

But why are they making this change (now)? Google’s primary motivation for driving HTTPS adoption is simple: a safe browsing experience is good for business. Users that feel safe on the web spend more time viewing and interacting with ads and other services that Google gets paid to deliver. (To be clear: these motivations do not in any way diminish the outstanding work of the Chrome team, whose members are passionate about protecting users for a myriad of non-business reasons. We applaud their efforts in making the web a safer place and are excited to see other browsers follow their lead.)

Google must feel the time is right to make the change thanks to HTTPS page loads continuing to climb steadily and minimal fallout from their previous, incremental steps. Emily Schechter, the Chrome Security Product Manager who announced the change, writes: “we believe https usage will be high enough by july [2018] that this will be OK”. Currently, the ratio of user interaction with secure origins to non-secure sits at 69.7%; five months ago it was just 62.5% and thus it’s easy to imagine Chris Palmer’s suggested threshold of 75% will have been met by July.

Such a change would have been far too disruptive just one year ago, but thanks to the efforts of Google and other participants in the webPKI ecosystem (including Cloudflare), a path has been paved towards 100% adoption. Today, HTTPS is fast, simple to deploy, and cost-effective if not free—and there’s no longer an excuse for not using SSL/TLS. Even static sites need encryption to prevent malicious third-parties from tracking your users or injecting ads into your site.