This was a great year for adoption of HTTPS encryption for secure connections to websites.
HTTPS is an essential technology for security and privacy on the Web, and we've long been asking sites to turn it on to protect their users from spying (and from censorship and tampering with site content). This year, lots of factors came together to make it happen, including ongoing news about surveillance, advances in Web server capacity, nudges from industry, government, and Web browsers, and the Let's Encrypt certificate authority.
By some measures, more than half of page loads in Firefox and in Chrome are now secured with HTTPS—the first time this has ever happened in the Web's history. That's right: for the first time ever, most pages viewed on the Web were encrypted! (As another year-in-review post will discuss, browsers are also experimenting with and rolling out stronger encryption technologies to better protect those connections.)
Sites large and small took turned on HTTPS in 2016, often using certificates from the Let's Encrypt certificate authority (sometimes with EFF's Certbot software, or a range of other options). In just a single year of broad public availability, Let's Encrypt has now helped enable secure connections for over 21 million websites, most of which never had certificates before.
A sizeable part of the growth in HTTPS came from very large hosting providers that decided to make HTTPS a default for sites that they host, including OVH, Wordpress.com, Shopify, Tumblr, Squarespace, and many others. Sites they host, and visitors to those sites, can get a boost in security without having to do anything. (And we're getting ongoing benefits from providers like CloudFlare who made the switch in previous years.) A single hosting provider's decision can result in enabling encryption for hundreds of thousands or millions of customers; we hope others will take the plunge too!
U.S. government sites also made significant progress adopting HTTPS this year, responding to the administration's guidance in support of HTTPS—a clear and practical explanation of why secure connections should be the default.
A caveat: data from Google shows that use of HTTPS varies significantly from country to country, remaining especially uncommon in Japan. We've also heard that it's still uncommon across much of East and Southeast Asia. Next year, we'll have to find ways to bridge those gaps.
This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.