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5/2/2012
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Google SPDY Accelerates Mobile Web

Google engineers showed an average 23% improvement in page load time on mobile websites using Google's SPDY protocol. SPDY doesn't replace HTTP, but improves upon aspects of it.

In its ongoing quest for speed--essential to make Web apps competitive with native apps--Google has demonstrated that mobile Web pages can be loaded much faster using an experimental protocol its engineers helped develop.

Using the SPDY protocol and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone running SPDY-enabled mobile browser Chrome for Android, Google tested 77 Web pages across 31 domains. The results were promising.

"The net result is that using SPDY results in a mean page load time improvement of 23% across these sites, compared to HTTP," explained Google engineers Matt Welsh, Ben Greenstein, and Michael Piatek in an online post.

The trio recommends that website operators "should consider using SPDY to speed up access to their sites from mobile devices."

[ Learn more about Google's contested Street View data collection methods. See Google Wardriving: How Engineering Trumped Privacy. ]

Improving Web page responsiveness is widely known to have a positive effect on page visitor metrics and e-commerce. And speed is probably even more important when users are on mobile devices, where real-world events and interactions compete for user attention.

First published in draft form in November 2009, SPDY is designed to transport Web content more efficiently. The protocol does so by compressing HTTP headers, by allowing HTTP requests to be processed out of order to reduce bottlenecks, and by allowing a single TCP connection to handle multiple requests in order to reduce TCP connection overhead.

SPDY is not a replacement for HTTP, though it does override some parts of it, specifically HTTP connection management and data transfer formats. Google has deployed SPDY in the stable version of its Chrome browser and uses it for services like Search and Gmail. Other companies have recently started adopting the protocol, too. Mozilla uses SPDY in Firefox, Amazon uses it in its Silk browser, and Twitter implemented it in March.

An Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) working group is presently considering both SPDY and a competing proposal from Microsoft, HTTP Speed+Mobility, for inclusion in the forthcoming revision of the HTTP protocol, dubbed HTTP 2.0.

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