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Google Chrome web protocol seeks 2x download speeds

HTTP gets SPDY

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Updated Google is developing a new application layer protocol designed to speed the movement of stuff across the web. It's called SPDY, pronounced, yes, speedy.

Unveiled Thursday with a post to the Google Research blog, this "early-stage" research project is specifically designed to reduce latency via things like multiplexed streams, request prioritization, and HTTP header compression.

The blog post is entitled A 2x faster web.

The company's research arm has already developed a prototype web server and, yes, Google Chrome client that make use of the protocol. In the lab, Google says it sees "up to" a 55 per cent improvement when downloading the web's top 25 sites over simulated home connections.

"There is still a lot of work we need to do to evaluate the performance of SPDY in real-world conditions. However, we believe that we have reached the stage where our small team could benefit from the active participation, feedback and assistance of the web community," the company says.

In its post, Google implied that good ol' http needs an update: "HTTP is an elegantly simple protocol that emerged as a web standard in 1996 after a series of experiments. HTTP has served the web incredibly well. We want to continue building on the web's tradition of experimentation and optimization, to further support the evolution of websites and browsers."

But Google's documentation explains that SPDY is not a means of replacing http. It will create a session between the HTTP application layer and the TCP transport layer. That said, this session uses an HTTP-like request-response setup.

"SPDY replaces some parts of HTTP, but mostly augments it," reads a Google FAQ. "At the highest level of the application layer, the request-response protocol remains the same. SPDY still uses HTTP methods, headers, and other semantics. But SPDY overrides other parts of the protocol, such as connection management and data transfer formats."

As it rolls out all sorts of web-based applications, Google is intent on juicing web speeds. That's why it launched its very own browser, Chrome, with its very own JavaScript engine, and that's why Chrome will soon drive Google's very own operating system.

Presumably, Google's aim it to make this a web-wide standard. It has, after all, opened up documentation and code to world+dog. " the goal is to make SPDY work in all browsers to further test our research and to help make the web faster for all users," the company tells us. But a prototype is already in place with Chrome. One wonders how its competitors will take to the idea. ®

Update: This story has been updated with comment from Google.

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