Google proxy used for Chrome's mobile data compression

A new data compression feature for Chrome on Android and iOS sends all HTTP data through a Google-run proxy
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Claiming a saving on data usage of 50 percent, Google has rolled out a new data compression feature in its Chrome for Mobile app that is available for Android and iOS. To enable the new feature, all the user needs to do is head over to the Settings menu, go into the Bandwidth Management section, and select "Reduce data usage".

In order to compress the data send to the mobile device, Google is forwarding all HTTP traffic and DNS lookups to a SPDY proxy run by the company, which sends its data back to the device over an SSL connection.

"By using SPDY, the proxy is able to multiplex multiple request and response streams in parallel over a single TCP connection to your phone or tablet," Google engineer Matt Welsh wrote in a blog post introducing the beta release of the data compression feature in March 2013.

"Only HTTP traffic is routed through and optimised by the proxy, so secure (HTTPS) requests will bypass the proxy and continue to connect directly to the destination."

As part of the bandwidth saving, Google's proxy will return pages with gzip compression and convert all images to WebP, which the company says requires fewer bytes than JPEG or PNG.

"The proxy also performs intelligent compression and minification of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS resources, which removes unnecessary white space, comments, and other metadata which are not essential to render the page," Welsh said.

Pages requested in Chrome's Incognito mode are not sent via the proxy.

Google is far from being the first company to use proxies to reduce bandwidth usage. Opera, for many years, has made use of a proxy for traffic reduction in its Opera Mini browser, a feature that is now found under the "Off-Road mode" moniker in its new Blink-based browser for Android.

LinkedIn found itself in hot water in October last year, when the company introduced its Intro service for iPhone users, which routed a user's email through a LinkedIn proxy in order to inject LinkedIn information for them.

As well as updating the mobile version of its Chrome application, Google also released a new desktop version of its browser, featuring a new mode for Windows 8, which mimics the behaviour of Chrome OS.

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