Take Advantage of Faster and More Secure Browsing with TLS 1.3

Do you wish web pages loaded instantly the moment you clicked on a link or bookmark? As an experienced browser user, you may have noticed that website connections involve quite a bit of back-and-forth communication behind the scenes before a site fully renders. Luckily, the latest generation of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) cryptographic protocol — version 1.3 to be precise — aims to speed up and secure those connections.

TLS 1.3 Adoption Reaches Tipping Point

Released in 2018 after years of development, TLS 1.3 has quickly become the minimum standard for encryption and authentication across the web. Most major sites now support it, along with content delivery networks like Cloudflare and Akamai who serve over half the internet‘s traffic.

TLS 1.3 adoption graph

TLS 1.3 usage has grown rapidly since 2020 [source: Cloudflare]

The data shows this tidal wave of adoption:

  • Over 50% of websites enable TLS 1.3 as of 2022
  • TLS 1.3 is used in over 25% of all web connections
  • That is up from less than 1% of sites and traffic before 2020

Platforms like Google Cloud and Azure enabled TLS 1.3 by default shortly after its release. And with good reason…

TLS 1.3 Provides Dramatically Faster Page Loads

Compared to previous versions, websites can establish a TLS 1.3 connection in nearly half the amount of back-and-forth steps with your browser. This means you spend less time waiting for encryption keys to be verified before you can access page content.

Some real-world stats tell the story:

  • TLS 1.3 reduces connection latency by zero to two round trips
  • Typical mobile sites load 400+ ms faster thanks to fewer round trips
  • That additional speed is especially critical on slower mobile connections

Beyond just faster handshakes, TLS 1.3 optimizes data transfer throughput thanks to new ciphers that support using encryption and authentication in parallel instead of sequentially. The days of staring at your screen waiting for a site to load are ending!

Enhanced Security and Privacy Safeguards Included

While performance gains may be the headliner, TLS 1.3 also ships with a suite of upgraded security protections:

  • New stronger ciphers like AES-256 and ChaCha20 that keep data safer
  • Encryption of request SNI metadata preventing eavesdropping
  • Forward secrecy ensures past traffic can‘t be decrypted even if short-term keys are compromised
  • Resistant to known attacks like BEAST, Lucky 13, and RC4 biases

Developed over years of consultation by the IETF Internet Security Trust, you can trust TLS 1.3 will keep you secure as you browse everything from your online bank to web mail.

Most Popular Browsers Now Support TLS 1.3

Given the clear advantages, all major browser vendors have added TLS 1.3 capabilities in recent years:

Browser TLS 1.3 Since Version
Chrome v63
Firefox v61
Safari v12
Edge v15

However, depending on your specific browser version, operating system, and configuration, TLS 1.3 may not be enabled yet or fully supported. Let‘s examine how to activate and take full advantage of TLS 1.3.

Activating TLS 1.3 in Chrome

Being an evergreen Chromium-based browser that auto-updates, recent versions of Chrome come TLS 1.3 ready right out of the box. But just to be safe, you‘ll want to double check the status.

Step 1) Launch the Chrome browser on your Windows, Mac, Linux or Chromebook device.

Step 2) Type chrome://flags/#tls13-variant into the address bar and hit enter. This brings up the internal Chrome configuration flags menu.

Chrome TLS 1.3 Flag

Step 3) Ensure the TLS 1.3 flag setting is not disabled. Select either Default or Enabled to confirm Chrome will use TLS 1.3 when available.

Step 4) Restart the Chrome browser for changes to take effect.

That‘s it! Chrome will now automatically leverage TLS 1.3 to deliver lightning quick, secure connections to supported sites you visit.

Turning on TLS 1.3 Support in Firefox

As Mozilla‘s popular open source browser alternative, Firefox has also supported TLS 1.3 since version 61. Here is how to make certain the capability is enabled:

Step 1) Launch the Firefox browser on your computer.

Step 2) Type about:config into the address bar and hit Enter. This opens Firefox‘s advanced configuration panel.

Firefox about:config

Step 3) In the search bar, type tls.version and look for the security.tls.version.max parameter.

Step 4) Double click on the security.tls.version.max preference and set the value to 4 to enable TLS 1.3.

Step 5) Restart Firefox for the new TLS 1.3 setting to take effect.

Once updated, Firefox will automatically use TLS 1.3 for faster and more private connections when visiting supporting websites.

Safari Supports TLS 1.3 by Default on Modern macOS

Safari browser comes baked in to Mac desktops and laptops. On the latest macOS versions like Monterey or Ventura, Safari utilizes TLS 1.3 without any needed tweaks.

However, Safari auto-enables TLS 1.3 only on macOS 10.15 Catalina from 2019 onward. If for some reason you are still running an older OS version, here is how to activate TLS 1.3 support:

Step 1) Open the Terminal app and type sudo su – root to gain administrative root access. Authenticate with your macOS password when prompted.

Gain root access on Mac

Step 2) Enter and run this command:

defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.networkd tcp_connect_enable_tls13 1

Step 3) Relaunch Safari, and it can now leverage TLS 1.3 where supported.

How to Test TLS 1.3 Enabled Correctly

To validate everything is working as expected and confirm your browser properly connects via TLS 1.3, use these online test tools:

Cloudflare Browser Test

https://www.cloudflare.com/ssl/encrypted-sni/

This performs a quick check that TLS 1.3 works and blocks any downgrade attacks to weaker protocols.

How‘s My SSL TLS Test

https://www.howsmyssl.com/

Scans for protocol support, misconfigurations, and vulnerability risks across any browser and operating system combination.

If you followed the steps outlined above, both checks should confirm your browser successfully handshakes via TLS 1.3. Enjoy blindingly quick, secure web browsing!

What Does the Future Hold for TLS Evolution

While TLS 1.3 represents a big leap forward, early work is already underway for a future TLS 1.4 specification. In collaborating closely with standards bodies like the IETF, browser makers expect even faster initial connect times along with expanded privacy protections.

Google Chrome team members suggest TLS 1.4 may reduce round trips by another 50% and Mozilla anticipates improved encrypted SNI routing. TLS 1.5 designs are also in the research phase to someday leverage emerging cryptography like quantum-safe algorithms.

Rest assured, as web encryption protocols evolve to meet new threats, Chrome, Firefox and Safari will remain on the cutting edge keeping your browsing safe. But in the meantime, enabling TLS 1.3 means you surf with confidence today.

I hope this guide served you well demystifying the ins and outs of TLS 1.3 browser support. Please don‘t hesitate to reach out with any questions!

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