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Google Chrome Gets SPDY – And An Onscreen Keyboard

There has been quite some buzz about the Chrome touch UI lately. Following our initial report from March 20, Cnet recently uncovered more evidence that Chrome (OS) will be getting a touch tablet version and now we are seeing a screenshot (?) of the onscreen keyboard. Oh, and Google has quietly reduced the page load time of Chrome for pages on its own servers by a stunning 50% by modifying the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).

We have been speculating about Google’s efforts to make Chrome much more touch friendly for some time now. Our initial suspicion was that Chrome could be making its way onto Android devices, but there is now clear proof that Google is moving Chrome OS to touch interfaces, conceivably advanced and more complex tablet devices than we know today. We still believe that Android is, due to its app-centric layout, much more suited for smartphone/tablets than Chrome OS. However, we were somewhat surprised that Google never made a secret out of its Chrome OS touch UI plans and that developer discussions about this topic have been happening right under our nose.


We aren’t sure if this keyboard posted by Beverloo is actually a screenshot of the Chrome keyboard.

Peter Beverloo, who announced on April 5 that he will be joining Google’s Chrome team as a software engineer, recently posted what may or may not be screenshot of Chrome’s onscreen touch keyboard as well as links to the developer pages, which noted a “simple” keyboard as early as March 23 of this year. It is important to note that this keyboard was apparently created for Chrome OS and is unlikely to be available in the general builds of the Chrome browser, where such a keyboard would make little sense. Google has also updated Chrome OS with a feature that allows the software to “detect” touch devices. Additionally, Google has posted PNGs of throbbersfor Chrome touch. Chrome OS was recently updated to version R11 and it seems to us as if Google is preparing Chrome OS for an operating system war with Microsoft – at least on the cloud level and computing devices that could be considered commodity electronics.

There is another feature that Google quietly enabled, but it’s apparently not make a big deal for the company. Google enabled SPDY for Chrome in mid-January 2011 in a limited way, but is now running Chrome with SPDY, which replaces portions of HTTP and adds a few features at 100% over its own servers. The result is a dramatically increased page load performance that only works between Chrome (as it includes SPDY support) and Google’s servers (which supports the features for Google sites.) In effect, Google sites should load much faster in Chrome than in any other web browser.

SPDY is designed to overcome the shortcomings of HTTP, which was first documented in 1995 and related to web content that was much simpler than what we are developing and consuming today. Both TCP and HTTP have evolved into a bottleneck of data downloads and are constantly under scrutiny how these protocols can be made much more efficient in today’s world. HTTP is especially criticized for latency issues since HTTP can only fetch one resource at a time and servers cannot communicate with a client without a client request – and even then it can only support six connections at a time in most browsers. HTTP also uses uncompressed and redundant request and response headers. SPDY uses TCP as the underlying transport layer, but addresses some of the key problems in HTTP as far as latency is concerned.

SPDY sessions in Chrome

SPDY sessions in Chrome

SPDY supports unlimited connection streams, can prioritize and even block requests if a communication channel gets overloaded and supports header compression. SPDY also allows the server to communicate with a client without a client request.  Google said that it saw pageload times to improve by 44 to up to 64%. According to the company, SPDY still uses HTTP methods, headers and “other semantics.” However, the connection management and data transfer formats are modified. Google said that there are no concerns that SPDY could “break the Internet” as the technology runs on top of TCP.

It is difficult to see the performance improvements in a live environment as those pageload times depend on a lot of factors and your Internet connection may be the problem of an overall slow load time. However, if you want to see SPDY at work, simply type chrome://net-internals in the URL bar and navigate to the SPDY tab. Click on View live SPDY session to see all SPDY connections at a given time – all Google properties work with this technology.

All Google Chrome versions currently offered for download (stable, beta, developer, canary, nightly build)  support SPDY. Google said that it intends to release SPDY as open source (source files).

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