​Google's desktop Chrome Data Saver aims to slash data costs

Google's build-in data compression for Chrome on mobile comes to the desktop in the form of a Chrome extension.

Google has released a beta version of Data Saver for desktop Chrome - an extension that could come in handy when you're tethered to a mobile connection.

The company recently published a beta version of its Data Saver extension on the Chrome Store. As its name suggests, the extension aims to reduce data usage (and costs) by compressing a page on Google's server before the page data is sent to the browser. The extension provides handy but basic statistics on how much data has been saved while the extension has been enabled.

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While data costs are cut, there is a down side to the extension: due to the compression, pages will load with grainier still images. As with the data compression in Chrome for mobile, to maintain the privacy of HTTPS connections, the extension won't compress data when visiting an HTTPS site. That also, however, means that Data Saver won't compress video content on YouTube, nor when the browser is in Incognito mode.

Google highlights on a support page that other sacrifices may include breaking location services and causing images to look fuzzy. Also, intranet sites might not load, and users might have have trouble logging into a mobile provider's website.

The feature could be welcome on laptops and Chromebooks when a user is relying on a mobile network for connectivity.

Google has experimented with data compression in Chrome on mobile since 2013 and introduced it as a built-in feature for Chrome on iOS and Android early last year, claiming it could reduce the size of a page by 50 percent.

With the feature enabled, data moving to and from an HTTP site will travel via Google's data compression proxy server. The connection from the mobile device to the proxy server has run on the SPDY networking protocol, however, as Google noted in February, it is gradually phasing out the non-standard SPDY in favour of the standards-based HTTP/2.

The service is similar to browser data compression offered by Opera for its mobile browser and formerly by Nokia for its mobile Xpress browser for Asha phones. Google's decision not to run HTTPS traffic through its proxy will avoid the criticism levelled at Nokia after it was discovered in 2013 the company was routing HTTPS traffic through its own servers.

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