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WTH is SPDY?

Too many acronyms got you down again? Let’s just spell it out real quick. The title should read, “What the heck is Speedy?” Just a note, SPDY isn’t an acronym; it is just a speedier version of saying speedy. I don’t get the joke, but I’m not an engin

eer.

For people who aren’t up on the buzz, SPDY is Google’s creation for the next level of networking protocol to help transport web content. Google is the big mover and shaker behind this protocol and the mother of all web sites, Facebook, just announced that they will be using it too.

Really that is big news even though you might not have heard much about it. Facebook is the internet’s most popular website. While Google has already begun using SPDY with GooGle Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, adding the biggest destination on the web is a huge push towards getting others to join.

What Does SPDY Do?

Basically SPDY is a juiced up version of HTTP. You are using it to reduce load times and increase web security. If you were to compare it to a bike rider, HTTP would be Lance Armstrong before he won the Tour de France and SPDY would be the US Postal Team with Lance while he won all those races.

Now to be clear, SPDY only modifies the way HTTP requests and responses are sent and does not replace that basic code. Google has been pushing this as part of their “Make the Web faster” program.

Why Does Facebook Want it?

Specifically it will help speed things up between web servers that are further apart. It also will help with some other very technical stuff you may or may not understand (but we will include the jargon anyway) such as: multiplexing, transport layer encryption, zero latency upgrade, per-request flow control, and server push.

Also since it is used in both Google Chrome and Firefox, this protocol has a very large existing user base. Microsoft isn’t planning on using it because they have their own option called HTTP Speed+Mobility. Oddly Facebook, who is a Google competitor, is backing the Google product and says it is better than the Microsoft product. Microsoft is an investor in Facebook.

Harsh. That would seem to speak volumes about how much more useful SPDY is over the competition.

Do You Want It?

Maybe but it depends on the overall size of your site. If you are a web developer then you should really look into it.

You can add SPDY support by enabling mod-spdy for Apache. The results will be partially based on how customers are looking at your site. There are tools available, such as the Chromium Page Benchmarker, which can check on site performance based on configurations.

But ideally SPDY is really only going to have an effect on the bigger sites. Obviously Facebook is so huge that they are constantly looking for ways to shave milliseconds off anything to heighten the user experience. Smaller sites are much better off looking at general optimization techniques to help speed things up. Even for developing web apps the only big bonus for utilizing SPDY is for features like Server-Sent Events.

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