Speeding Up the Web: The Plot Thickens

March 29, 2012

I’ve written here before about some of Google’s projects that are aimed at speeding up the Web, and specifically about its development of the new SPDY Web session protocol,  Google has supported SPDY in its Chrome browser for some time, and Mozilla, has recently added SPDY support to Firefox.  In the testing done so far, the use of SPDY has produced reductions of 28-48 % in page loading times.

This week, the Internet Engineering Task Force [IETF] is meeting in Paris.  As always, there are many items on its agenda.  One of these is the report of the working group on the development of “HTTP 2.0”, referred to as ‘HTTPbis’, the next generation of the ubiquitous HyperText Transfer Protocol [HTTP], the core protocol of the Web.  Until very recently, Google’s SPDY was the only substantive proposal that had been put forward.

Now Microsoft has entered the picture with its own proposal, called HTTP Speed+Mobility, sometimes abbreviated HTTP S&M.  (The name must have been hammered out by the same marketing gurus that developed the Windows 7 launch parties.)  This seems to use SPDY as a starting point, with some amendments based on tests flogging  the HTML 5 WebSockets API, and focusing particularly on mobile usage.  The original blog post announcing the submission was somewhat lacking in details, but there is now an IETF draft available; I’ve not yet had a chance to read it more than superficially, but I’m most interested to see what it says.

There are many Internet “techies” (including me) that tend to be reflexively suspicious of Microsoft’s motives, because of some unseemly parts of its history.  But it is a considerable virtue of the IETF process that it is open to scrutiny.  Given that, having more (non-frivolous) suggestions is a good thing, even if they come from Microsoft’s desire to beat Google at its own game, of whipping Web performance into shape.

There are articles on the Microsoft submission at the “Webmonkey” blog at Wired, and at Extreme Tech.

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