Tweets and Turns: HTTPS Goes Live for Twitter’s t.co in October

September 22, 2015 @ 11:28 AM
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2 min read

As user demand for safe Internet browsing ramps up, companies are leveraging HTTPS as a way to ensure end-to-end security for both traffic and individual pages. And while some sites such as online meeting service OKCupid are reluctant to embrace the next step in URL security, others are moving forward.

Social media giant Twitter announced it will start rolling out the new protocol in October. All new links wrapped in its t.co wrapper will automatically use HTTPS. Are secure tweets the next turn on the road to defensible online interactions?

Shout Out

As noted by SC Magazine, any new links wrapped by the t.co wrapper will now use HTTPS by default starting Oct. 1. It’s worth mentioning that old links will not be affected and the length of the wrapper will be increased by a single character. While this could pose problems for frequent tweeters who prefer to use all 140 characters with each message, it’s a small price to pay for improved security.

The official Twitter announcement also noted that sites still using HTTP could see a drop in referral traffic of up to 10 percent. This should be remedied, however, as users update their browser versions to support new referrer policy. This is the same refrain heard from other companies such as Apple or Facebook: While the benefits of HTTPS far outweigh the costs, companies dragging their feet on implementation may find their site passed over in favor of more secure alternatives.

Drop Off

While it’s not a surprise that HTTP sites may fall behind, a recent Search Engine Land piece noted that the reverse may also be true: Webmasters who updated their sites to use HTTPS noticed that crawling, ranking and visit numbers from Microsoft’s Bing search engine fell dramatically after making the switch.

As it turned out, the problem stemmed from Bing’s trouble with TLS Server Name Indication (SNI), which is used by companies to save money by routing all security certificates through a single IP. Unfortunately, Bing and SNI didn’t play well, forcing the search engine to manually white-list sites rather than crawl them automatically.

Rolling In

Despite some issues with HTTPS implementation, however, the tide is turning. As noted by PCWorld, the U.S. government has set a 2016 end date for HTTP on all its public websites and Web services. According to the new mandate, all agencies have until the end of next year to comply. The move is somewhat out of character for a governing body, but the U.S. government has been under pressure to ramp up the safety and security of its Web presence. Now, big private players like Twitter are following suit.

Ultimately, the new t.co wrapper isn’t the harbinger of an HTTPS revolution but further proof that there’s no stopping this particular security train. Soon enough, companies will have two choices: Get on board with the protocol or get off the Internet.

Douglas Bonderud
Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and innovation. In addition to working for...
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