Strangeloop’s existing product is, however, well-positioned to help Google make a start. Strangeloop already helps businesses speed up their websites by handling optimization for them without requiring them to change their code or hardware. The Site Optimizer software sits between a company’s Web server and the user’s browser and adjusts the website’s code automatically to make it load faster; this already includes improvements customized for specific browsers. Site Optimizer customers can choose to turn SPDY on, making their servers behave as if the protocol were installed, for customers who visit their sites using Chrome.
Browsers today typically open up lots of connections to a server, in order to start downloading lots of information at once—images, ads, text, and so on. Tom Hughes-Croucher, chief evangelist for Joyent, a company that provides cloud software, explains that, while this does speed things up, the approach also has its problems. Those connections take time to “warm up” and start downloading at their full capacity. Also, they don’t prioritize well, so the user might end up waiting for images at the bottom of a page to load when what he’s really looking at is on top.
SPDY addresses this problem by opening one connection that is capable of loading many different parts of the page at once. It also allows programmers to manage how pages load, so they can deliver more important pieces first.
Strangeloop’s product is designed to handle using SPDY, so customers don’t have to worry about writing different code for users who do and don’t use SPDY. The company worked extensively with Google engineers to get SPDY deployed and running effectively.
Bundling SPDY with existing optimization products is a good starting strategy for Google, says Eric Hansen, founder and CEO of the website optimization company SiteSpect. He expects Google to eventually include SPDY in its own optimization product, called mod_pagespeed, which is similar to Site Optimizer. Google needs to do whatever it can to get websites to adopt SPDY, he says, because that’s the biggest part of its “uphill battle” to gain acceptance for the protocol.
Bixby believes that websites will become more willing to use SPDY when they see its potential benefits. “What’s really exciting to me is its capabilities on the mobile side,” Bixby says. Google hasn’t yet built SPDY into Android’s browser, but when it does, the protocol stands to make an even bigger difference. Since mobile Internet browsing is painfully slow and Android handsets have a large portion of smart phone market share, Bixby thinks SPDY could make a difference in that arena. He says, “I would be very surprised if we don’t see this in Android in the near future.”