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07 March 2013, 09:26

Chrome for Android Beta has SPDY proxying

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Chrome and the cloud Google's latest beta of Chrome for Android, version 26, has added an experimental feature designed to improve the performance of mobile browsing. The new "proxy browsing" feature has to be turned on manually and, when activated, directs mobile users' connections to HTTP sites through a SPDY connection to a Google-run proxy server. SPDY is Google's reworking of the HTTP protocol that multiplexes many connections into one, which, combined with other enhancements, gives a faster web experience. SPDY is being used as the basis for the next generation of HTTP, HTTP 2.0.

SPDY boosted
Zoom SPDY boosts connection speeds to HTTP sites.
Source: Google

The proxy server appears to not only make sites use SPDY, but also use a specially tuned version of Google's open source PageSpeed tools to transcode images into Google's WebP format and minimise the HTML, JavaScript and CSS resources. The content is then gzipped before being sent on to the user's device. Google says this should result in substantial bandwidth savings – in testing up to 50% less – which is especially important with usage caps on mobile connections. Amazon's Silk browser and Opera Mini use similar techniques to optimise their web connections for mobile devices, but with Google's release, more of the technology is available as open source code.

Only HTTP traffic goes via the proxy; HTTPS connections are made as normal, directly to the requested sites. DNS lookups are also performed by the proxy and, when enabled, the proxy browsing system also activates Google's Safe Browsing mode. A white paper gives more details on the implementation. The new feature can be enabled by going to chrome://flags and enabling "Experimental Data Compression Proxy".

The update to the Chrome for Android Beta also contains some less radical changes such as syncing support for saved passwords and autofill entries. There is also a very early experimental release of WebRTC for Android which can be activated using a chrome://flag too. The beta is available through Google Play. Initially not available for the Nexus 7, a minor fixes update on 6 March has now added support for the Google tablet.

Users wishing to download and build their own Chromium for Android, the open source basis for Chrome, should consult the project wiki for instructions.


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