BHL Moves to HTTPS

HTTPS? What does it mean? HTTP is the language that your browser uses to communicate to BHL and the S stands for Secure, encrypted, unreadable, or at least much, much harder to read.

The web is moving to encrypted connections across the board. In 2014 Google announced that their page rank algorithm that decides the order of your search results will now rank insecure pages slightly lower than secure pages. From security to rankings, encrypted connections are better for everyone.

“What does it mean for how I use BHL?” you ask.

Well, not much. If you go to a link that uses http://, you will invisibly be redirected to https:// almost immediately.

“What does it mean for my bookmarks or catalog?”

Those still work, too. If you wish, you may update your bookmarks to use https:// and if it’s simple, your catalog and databases, as well. However, the old http:// will continue to redirect indefinitely and forever.

“Why would I want to encrypt my work on BHL? We’re not doing top secret work here.”

Encryption of the communication between your computer and BHL prevents malicious activity, such as intercepting the content, inserting some nasty code onto the page, and happily sending it along to your browser to wreak havoc on your day.

“How do I know it’s really working?” 

You’ve seen it already: a green padlock icon, sometimes with the text “Secure” beside it. This indicates that the site and all of its content are fully encrypted and hidden from prying eyes and hackers.

“What if I use the BHL API? Do I need to do anything?”

After a minor hiccup this morning, no, there’s nothing you need to do. Going forward, however, the best action to take is to update your code to use https://.

“Psst! This very blog post isn’t encrypted. Did you forget it?”

Good eye for detail! We are in the process of updating the blog, and website encryption will be part of the relaunch later in 2017.

“And what about all those wiki pages that still refer to http://?”

We’ll be updating those as we can. Thanks for your patience, but the links all still work!

In summary, carry on as you would and continue the great work you do. If you have specific questions, please feel free to send us feedback here.

Avatar for Joel Richard
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Joel Richard is the head of Web and IT department for the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, and the Technical Coordinator for the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Joel is also the creator and developer of the Macaw software used by BHL partners to add content to BHL.