Google Chrome set for speed boost: Brotli's leaner webpages edge closer

Chrome could get a significant speed bump in coming months as Google rolls out its new data compression algorithm, Brotli.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google says the new Brotli algorithm should be coming to Chrome soon.

Image: Google

Chrome is about to get a significant performance boost, thanks to Google's new compression algorithm for the internet, Brotli.

Google released its new algorithm in September, boasting a "whole new data format" that offered 20 to 26 percent higher compression ratios over, Zopfli, an algorithm developed at Google and released in 2013.

Now Google web performance engineer Ilya Grigorik says the new algorithm should be coming to Chrome soon, with a current status of "intent to ship".

As it did with Zopfli, Google has named its new algorithm after a Swiss bakery product. Brötli means 'small bread' in Swiss German.

For now, Brotli's use is restricted to HTTPS connections and the feature can be activated in Chrome's Canary channel via chrome://flags#enable-brotli.

While the feature looks to be arriving on Chrome for the desktop first, Google hopes to see the new algorithm supported on other browsers and, perhaps more importantly, on mobile browsers, where besides faster load times, it may cut data transfer fees and save on all-important battery resources.

Content distribution network CloudFlare compared Brotli with the widely-used compression algorithm gzip on a set-up that used Firefox, which supports Brotli.

CloudFlare found that Google's algorithm is superior for static files larger than 64kB on slow connections. However, it had reservations about its performance for compression on the fly to support dynamic web content.

Microsoft's Edge and Apple's Safari browsers may also support Brotli. Google notes that "supporting Brotli for content-encoding is rather straightforward when you already support WOFF2" font-packaging format.

WOFF 2.0, as Google outlined last year, uses Brotli, and claimed that combined, they can cut the size of downloaded fonts by more than 40 percent on average.

According to Google, WOFF 2.0 is under consideration by Microsoft's Edge team, while Safari will soon support WOFF 2.

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