Google aims for faster web downloads

The SPDY protocol is being enlisted to boost search speeds. Mikael Ricknäs reports

Google is hoping to make web pages download up to twice as quickly using SPDY, a new application-layer protocol it's experimenting with, the company says in a blog post.

It wants to improve on the performance of using HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) by minimising latency. For the protocol to work, the browser and the web server have to be upgraded, but changes to web pages are not needed, according to Google.

Google's lab tests of SPDY show an improvement in page load times compared to HTTP of between 27 percent and 60 percent, and between 39 percent and 55 percent when using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), the company says.

Google still needs to do a lot of work to evaluate the performance of SPDY in real-world conditions, according to the blog post.

The search giant conducted the tests by downloading 25 of the "top 100" web sites ten times each over simulated home network connections, using a prototype Google Chrome browser and a web server that it has developed.

SPDY uses a number of techniques to speed web downloads, including allowing many concurrent HTTP requests across a single TCP session, prioritising the requests, and using compression to reduce the number of packets and overall amount of data sent.

Google doesn't want to start from scratch with SPDY. The protocol still uses HTTP headers, but it overrides other parts of the protocol, such as connection management and data transfer formats.

The source code for the prototype Google Chrome browser is available for download. The code for the server will be released as open source in the near future.

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