SPDY takes a step beyond Google's walls

Strangeloop Networks has embraced Google's technology for making the Web a notch faster, and finds it's a big notch: more than half the time to load a Web page.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
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SPDY, a would-be standard with which Google hopes to speed up the Web, has taken a baby step outside its founding company's walls.

Strangeloop Networks, a Vancouver company that sells technology and services for hosting content on the Web, now includes SPDY in its products, the company announced yesterday.

SPDY is basically a new and improved HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), the standard that Web browsers and Web servers use to communicate. To develop and test such a technology, a company needs to control both ends of a communication channel, and that's just what Google has done. Google's Chrome browser and some Google Web sites have SPDY built in.

According to Google's white paper on SPDY, the protocol can cut load times for the top 25 Web sites by between 28 percent and 43 percent over a 2Mbps DSL line and 44 percent to 55 percent over a 4Mbps cable broadband connection. The variation depends on the number of SPDY features enabled and changes such as whether SSL encryption is used.

For its part, Strangeloop said SPDY cuts page-load times by at least half. With Web developers striving to shave every millisecond off that lag, that's a pretty substantial boast--at least for those on the Web using Chrome.

Google announced SPDY in November 2009. It plans to make the technology open-source software.

People tend to spend more time on faster-loading pages, and less directly, Google gives fast-loading pages an edge when determining what ads to show next to search results.

Among SPDY's standard features: the ability to request multiple Web page elements over a single network connection, to assign priorities to Web page elements to make sure the most important ones arrive first; and to compress "header" data that accompanies the actual Web page information and browser-server interactions. There also are optional ones such as server push, in which the server can send information the browser will need before the browser asks for it, and server hints, a gentler suggestion approach to the same idea.

An indirect benefit of SPDY is that it fares better over Internet connections that lose a lot of data packets or that suffer from long round-trip times--the communication wait for a message to go from one machine to the other and back, Google said.

One of the Google programmers working on the technology, Mike Belshe, said in May he's working on finalizing the SPDY specification. The technology would be overseen by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which is in charge of the HTTP standard. The work caught the attention of Roy T. Fielding, an influential computer scientist who helped write HTTP and the Apache Web server software that's very widely used to host Web sites.

Belshe said Strangeloop has been helpful in developing the technology. "Strangeloop engineers embraced SPDY from the beginning and provided key data and feedback about their experience," he said in a statement.