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05 December 2011, 10:25

SPDY protocol support lands in Firefox, but is turned off for now

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Firefox Nightly logo Firefox 11 will include support for Google's HTTP alternative, SPDY. Support for the protocol has arrived in the Mozilla browser's nightly builds, which will eventually become Firefox 11, but is turned off by default as the specification is not complete. It is expected that the protocol will remain off by default while the SPDY protocol is developed further and finalised. Mozilla's Brian Smith commented on the arrival, saying that the "implementation needs a lot more testing" and that currently "there is no concrete plan for enabling support for any particular draft SPDY spec". Users wishing to test the new protocol support will need to change the network.http.spdy.enabled preference in about:config to activate the protocol.

Google introduced SPDY in late 2009, as an experiment to produce a faster alternative to HTTP. It is able to handle many concurrent streams over one connection, while maintaining HTTP-like semantics. SPDY runs over TCP and all communications are TLS encrypted and gzip compressed to ensure security and improve transfer speed.

According to Google, in practical testing, it can as much as double the effective speed of connections to web servers. The SPDY specification is still in development; the most recent draft is version 3 which expired in November. A new draft version is therefore expected soon. Google is believed to be working with Mozilla and others to bring the specification for SPDY to the IETF. Google has already implemented SPDY in Chrome and Chromium browsers and has enabled the protocol on its own servers. Chrome users can view the chrome://net-internals/ URL and select the SPDY tab to see where the protocol is in use.

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