Sunday, March 03, 2013

Speed: Google adds experimental data compression feature to Chrome for Android

Speed, speed, speed: It's all about speed. Google's Chrome for Android has taken a page from Amazon's Silk mobile browser and Opera's Turbo feature, which is available on its mobile and desktop browsers; it was first noticed in a development build on Friday.

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Both Opera Turbo and Silk use pre-processing on their respective company's servers to optimize a web page, reducing the amount of data that is sent to the browser by compression and other methods. Chrome for Android's feature is currently optional, and not accessible via the program's settings, but might one day be turned on and available by default or through the U.I.

Optimization of a mobile browser can be seen as more useful than on a desktop, due to more limited processing power on a mobile device as well as more limited and sparse connectivity. It's also useful due to the data caps that exist on many wireless carriers.

It was spotted on Friday by developer Fran├žois Beaufort in a Chromium build released on Friday. Chromium is the open source web browser project from which Google Chrome draws its source code, and while the two share the majority of their code and features, new features are often added to Chromium first.

The new optimization feature is described by Google as follows:
Reduce data consumption by loading optimized web pages via Google proxy servers.
Naturally, less data should also translate into faster page loading times.

Opera describes its Turbo feature as follows:
When Opera Turbo is enabled, webpages are compressed via Opera’s servers so that they use much less data than the originals. This means that there is less to download, so you can see your webpages more quickly.

Silk is described by Amazon.com as follows:
All of the browser subsystems are present on your Kindle Fire as well as on the AWS cloud computing platform. Each time you load a web page, Silk makes a dynamic decision about which of these subsystems will run locally and which will execute remotely. In short, Amazon Silk extends the boundaries of the browser, coupling the capabilities and interactivity of your local device with the massive computing power, memory, and network connectivity of our cloud.
Google’s implementation does two things. Using SPDY, the company's proxy servers, it both forces SSL encryption for all sites. It also speeds up page load times, by multiplexing multiple streams of data over a single network connection, compressing header information that accompanies communications for resource requests and responses, and assigning high or low priorities to page resources being requested from a server.

As we said, you can't turn it on in Chrome's current UI. Instead, to enable the feature, you have to use ADB, which is included in the Android SDK. Remember, also, the feature is not final.

Connect your device to your PC, making sure that USB debugging is turned on in Android, and use the following command:
adb shell ‘echo “chrome –enable-spdy-proxy-auth” > /data/local/tmp/content-shell-command-line’
Those using the Android 4.2 version of Jelly Bean (remember that Google has dubbed both 4.1 and 4.2 Jelly Bean) will have to make the Developer Settings visible, since Google has chosen to hide them. To do so:
  • Go to Settings, About Phone.
  • Find the build number
  • Tap on the build number repeatedly about seven times
  • Note that after the third tap, you'll see a snarky dialog that says you are four taps away from being a developer.
  • After the seventh tap you will see a message that says “You are now a developer."
The Developer Settings option -- which you need to enable USB debugging -- will again be in the device's Settings app.



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