Firefox to Support SPDY Protocol

March 20, 2012

Back in 2009, I wrote about Google’s project to develop a new Web protocol, which it calls SPDY, as a supplement to the existing Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol [HTTP].  SPDY is, essentially, a new session protocol that allows for multiple inter-leaved HTTP streams over a single TCP connection.  It also allows for prioritization of requests, and for compression of HTTP header data.

Google’s own Chrome browser has had support for SPDY for some time.  The “Webmonkey” blog at Wired has a post about upcoming versions of Mozilla’s Firefox, which reports that, beginning with Firefox version 13 (now in the Aurora testing channel), Firefox will enable SPDY support by default.

SPDY, which began life at Google, is in the early stages of the standardization process, but when it finally arrives it should make many webpages load twice as fast as they do now over HTTP.

The design of SPDY attempts to provide a better framework for the current use of the Web, which is rather different than the simple request/receive page dialogs originally envisioned.

If you want to try an early (pre-release) version of Firefox, you can visit the Firefox download pages for the Beta (currently Firefox 12) or Aurora (currently Firefox 13) channels.

FIrefox 11, the current version released last week, also includes an early version of SPDY support, although it is disabled by default.  If you want to try it out — I do not recommend this for production systems — you can do so:

  1. In a new tab or window, type about:config in the URL bar.  You’ll get a long list of option settings.
  2. In the Search box, type network.http.
  3. Look down the (shorter) list to find network.http.spdy.enabled.
  4. Right-click on the value (“false“) and select Toggle to change it to “true“.

You can change it back by toggling the value back to false.  I’m not sure how much change you should expect to see, since there are not many Web sites which currently support SPDY, although Twitter and Google seem to, at least on some pages.

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