Google Takes on HTTP with SPDY

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 09, 2009

Google Chrome has been dominating the headlines this week, but what might have escaped notice is Google taking a crack at the "tubes" of the Internet itself. As part of Google's "let's make the Web faster initiative, it is working on SPDY (pronounced "speedy"), a protocol that's supposed to improve on the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

SPDY's goals are to reduce page load time by 50%, make it easy to deploy, and ensure that there's no need for content changes. Changes would be required on the client end and the server end, but the content itself would require no change.

According to the overview, SPDY looks to improve on HTTP with three key changes: Multiplexed requests, prioritized requests, and compressed headers.

Multiplexed requests mean no upper limit on the number of requests sent over a connection, which is more efficient. Prioritized requests mean that a client, like your Web browser, can ask for specific resources to be delivered first.

Finally, SPDY aims to compress the headers sent back and forth between the client and server to save bandwidth and reduce latency in communication.

It's worth noting that SPDY isn't the only proposal to boost the performance of HTTP. Other proposals include HTTP over SCTP, Stream Control Transmission Protocol, and others.

SPDY is also attempting to preserve other HTTP features such as cookies, content-encoding, and other features "work exactly as they do with HTTP; SPDY only replaces the way the data is written to the network."

From a user perspective, SPDY could be a great boon -- especially for users who view much of the Web through mobile devices.

At this point, there's very little of the online or computing experience that Google doesn't touch -- or at least try to touch. Google now has its hands in search, email, online advertising, online video, DNS, a custom programming language, operating systems, Web browsers, mobile device OS, and is now even proposing a new standard for the way that applications transmit information over the Web.

This is a fairly ambitious, and to some worrying, set of offerings. It will be interesting in 2010 to see how successful Google is, and what new projects the company tries to take on in addition to everything on its plate now.

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News,,, IBM developerWorks, and many others.