Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

Summary: Google's replacement for HTTP, SPDY, is meant to speed up Web access. Guess what? It really does.


Network engineers and hard-core Web architects know that HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol), the data transfer method used by the Web, isn't the most efficient data transfer protocol around. So, back in November 2009, Google started working on a faster replacement: SPDY, pronounced "speedy." And, now, if you're using the Chrome Web browser, and visiting Google Web sites, you can see SPDY in action according to Conceivably Tech.

I'm inclined to believe these claims because when I opened some moderately complex spreadsheets in Google Docs using both Chrome 10 and Firefox 4, and taking into account their differences in JavaScript rendering speed, Chrome 10 was still rendering pages about 20% faster than Firefox from what I would have expected.

I saw similar results on Gmail, iGoogle, and Google Advanced Scholar Search. I don't know about you, but a 20% boost in Web site performance is impressive to me.

When I used Google's own SPDY benchmarking tool, I saw similar results. This, which only compares Chrome with and without SPDY activated, showed that SPDY gave me a 15% improvement in Web site performance.

I've seen claims that SPDY can cut Web page load speeds by 50%, but I didn't see that kind of boost. Try it yourselves and let me know what you find.

Keep in mind, as you play with SPDY, that there are almost endless variables that can effect how fast a Web page will load for you. These include your ISP backbone speed, your broadband rate, the quality of your connection, how busy the Web site is when you reach it, and on and on and on.

You should also recall that SPDY only works if it's working in both the browser and the Web site server, so if you use Chrome 10 on Facebook or Yahoo you won't see any speed increase. For now, it only works with Chrome 10 and, so far, all the Google Web sites I've tried it on. It wouldn't surprise me though if SPDY hasn't been activated on all of Google's services and sites yet.

SPDY also won't work equally well on all kinds of data. According to a note in the SPDY developers' mailing list, "SPDY requires that the client support gzip compression [a data compression program] of payloads. The hope is that gzip quickly, simply and automatically gets pretty good compression of the payload."

This use of data compression means that data's that already compressed, such as a video MP4 streams or a JPEG image, will not get as much performance benefit from SPDY as straight text or JavaScript. Still, no matter what content you're trying to view you should see some speed improvements.

That's because SPDY also compresses the HTTP header information. What's far more significant though is how a SPDY handles Web requests. According to the second draft of the SPDY specification, SPDY "adds a framing layer for multiplexing multiple, concurrent streams across a single TCP connection (or any reliable transport stream). The framing layer is optimized for HTTP-like request-response streams."

Besides header compression, SPDY improves on HTTP by multiplexing data requests. Under SPDY, there is no limit to the number of requests that can be issued concurrently over a single SPDY connection. Because requests are interleaved on a single channel, the protocol is more efficient over TCP. HTTP, on the other hand can only fetch one resource at a time and support, at most six connections at a time with most Web browsers. The net effect is to cut down on latency as the Web browser and server don't have to waste time ping-ponging data requests and responses back and forth.

With SPDY, a Web browser can also prioritize requests. This way you can get the most critical data first, say a video stream, rather than wasting waiting around for an ad to appear before starting the video.

The bottom line is that while SPDY may not cut Web page load times in half, it can significantly improve your Web browsing performance.

Google plans on open-sourcing SPDY and the C++ code is available today. There's also an experimental SPDY Apache Web server module and Ruby code if you want to tinker with it yourself on the server side.

Hopefully, Google will soon officially open the source and submit SPDY to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to make it an official standard. After all, we could all use faster and more efficient Web servers and browsers.

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Topics: Google, Browser, Software Development

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  • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

    Things like this make me really like Google. Yes, they're bound to benefit from this in some way, but they're also making life better at no cost to everyone else. That's fine by me!
    • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

      I am not strictly against what Google is doing, but it does bother me, somewhat. It is akin to developing a new "standard", as MS has done in the past with its browsers and associated languages. Problems come to light down the track that are not always easily rectified . . .
      • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

        I totally agree.
        Ram U
      • Message has been deleted.

      • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

        Key difference is that Google makes it open standard and expects it to be approved by W3C before being rolled out to world. MS on other hand creates standard such that it can sell its products utilising their product.
        Google encourages others to use the standard and provide it free. Microsoft creates standard which only its own products can use and encourages everyone else to buy their product instead.
      • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

        @ptorning Except it's free to implement. Microsoft would go to a standards meeting, like Kerberos, then come up with a new implementation and patent it in order to stop others from using it. In this case google is making it open and placing the patents in the public domain.
      • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

        @ptorning Only if it is not a true standard. Most standards start at a large company. PCI, PCI-X & PCIe for example was started at Intel and now everyone uses them. For a while every PC vendor had a different bus. USB was started at Intel.
    • Message has been deleted.

      • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY


        What on Earth are you blathering on about, comrade?
      • You can carry a grudge, eh?


        Today's banner celebrates a human milestone, whether it was the USSR sending the first man into orbit or the US landing on the moon.

        Do you think that it was the communist USSR devalues the accomplishment?

        Do you even know what communism mean?
        Do you know the difference between that and Totalitarian regime?
    • Common guys, it's IE 10 all over the web on ARM Today.

      @Imrhien - let's call it a day.
    • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

      @Imrhien Just for clarification since you do not keep up with history. Being a citizen of this great nation, when someone mentions April 12th, only 2 things come to mind. 1945 - FDR dies and 1981 the first launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia. I really do not care about the communists or Yuri Gagarin. Maybe this is what is wrong with this nation as everybody rushes out to WalMart to buy communist Chinese made products. Or don't you believe that your nation should be first?
    • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY


      If they open source it, why not? For the moment, it is just a further enticement into the Google spyware network. For the few seconds it might save me, I will pass and recommend others do the same.
  • Message has been deleted.

    • Interesting thought.


      There were some plugins years ago that did a similar thing. Compressing the stream on the server end and web client end. This was in the days of dial up. In the end, you needed way too much buy in from web sites and the modems learned the trick of compression.

      On the surface, however, it was a great idea.

      It would be interesting to see the trade offs on mobile devies.

      1) On one side you have increased client side processing burning a critical resource like battery.

      2) You keep your radio channel activated for slightly less time conserving battery.

      3) With tiered pricing coming rapidly our way, you use less data on the network potentially saving you on your bill.

      Will the client side processing be worse than the other two? Interesting.
      • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

        @Bruizer Some things that make life better
        1) More cores and threads
        2) Processors from x86 to ARM with built in hardware that makes compression and decompression faster.
    • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

      @LiquidLearner Actually, my results that were far slower than the numbers everyone else has been reporting.

  • I think it's misspelled.

    There is no "D" in it, since it is Google we're talking about here.
    John Zern
    • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

      @John Zern
      LOL. :D
      Ram U
      • RE: Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

        @John Zern
        Ca-ching! :D