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Google Could Double Web Speeds With SPDY Protocol

Slowly but surely, we're getting an idea of what Google's Chrome OS will look like. We know that it will be Linux-based and that the primary interface will likely be the Chrome browser. Still, the search giant was not content to simply turn a Web browser into an operating system. Soon Google was launching a new programing language, called Go, that would allow programmers to build faster and more efficient applications. Then it announced Native Client, a feature built into Chrome (both the browser and the OS) that would allow software to be run inside the browser. Any program launched could be treated as just another tab in Chrome, and, when paired with the new Go programming language, could lead to dramatic speed increases for Web-based applications.

So Chrome OS, and the various enhancements Google is developing to milk every bit of potential from the Internet, are shaping up nicely. But there is still one major hurdle to overcome -- HTTP, or hyper text transfer protocol. HTTP is what browsers and and Web sites use to define how and when data is passed back and forth. The problem is that HTTP has existed, more or less in its current form, since 1996, a time when Web sites were primarily simple documents with static text and images.

So Google is developing a new protocol, dubbed SPDY (pronounced speedy). SPDY is designed, from the ground up, to handle modern Web apps that transfer several smaller files. Without getting too technical, SPDY is able to handle multiple streams of data at once and prioritize on the fly. This means that if the background image of a site takes a long time to load, it doesn't stall the rest of the content from being fed to the browser. SPDY also compresses request and response data (which asks for specific content and tells a browser what to display) so that multiple requests can be sent at once using less bandwidth. In simple terms this means much faster Web applications and more responsive sites.

Of course, there are problems. Sites will have to switch to this new protocol from HTTP -- not an easy task -- and browsers will have to support it. Until that happens, no Web sites will be jumping in and risk alienating non-Chrome-using customers.

In the lab Google was able to improve load times 55-percent over HTTP. If it can replicate those results in the real world, expect developers to sit up and take notice. This will of course set off alarms at Microsoft, which would not be happy with Google owning the protocol through which all Web sites are transmitted.

This could be the first salvo in a whole new theater in the battle for the Web. The browser wars may give way to the protocol wars, which could lead to a much faster and more flexible Internet -- a boon for all of us. [From: Download Squad, Ars Technica, and The Chromium Blog]

Tags: google, http, protocol, spdy, top