By Mark Long / Top Tech News. Updated March 30, 2012.
Building upon Google's SPDY protocol for the Web, Microsoft submitted its own proposal this week as the basis for development of the next-generation Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP 2.0) specification being formulated by an international standards body called the Internet Engineering Task Force.
Though Google's SPDY protocol differs in several respects from Microsoft's newly proposed HTTP Speed+Mobility protocol, both technologies focus first and foremost on dramatically boosting the speed of all Internet-based user activities irrespective of whether the computing platform is a fixed desktop PC or a mobile device.
There is already broad consensus about the need to make Web browsing much faster, said Jean Paoli, Microsoft's general manager for interoperability strategy, and Sandeep Singhal, group program manager for Windows core networking.
"We think that apps -- not just browsers -- should get faster too," Paoli and Singhal wrote in a recent blog. With HTTP Speed+Mobility, they said, "the main departures from SPDY are to address the needs of mobile devices and applications."
We asked Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC, about the performance improvements built into Google's SPDY protocol. (SPDY, pronounced "speedy," is not an initialism like HTTP, but a shortened form of the word speedy, trademarked by Google.)
"SPDY has been around for a couple of years, but it is mainly used on Google's properties [and] implemented in Google's browser," Hilwa said. "This is what makes Chrome extra snappy when interacting with most Google properties."
Coming to Agreement
With its submission of HTTP Speed+Mobility, Microsoft is essentially proposing something similar to SPDY but with a slightly different design approach, Hilwa explained.
"Debate about this is a good thing -- as long as all come to agreement at some point so we can all move on with a much faster Internet," Hilway said.
Given that HTTP 2.0 is only just now entering the standards development process, a major question is how long it will take before the new spec becomes final. Google argues that SPDY is already providing dramatic performance improvements on the Web today, while Microsoft has implied that Google's "clean slate" approach to implementing SPDY at the company's Web properties may not be the best option for the Internet overall.
"The rapid adoption of HTTP 2.0 is important," Paoli and Singhal said. "To make that happen, HTTP 2.0 needs to retain as much compatibility as possible with the existing Web infrastructure."
Still, when asked about this issue, Hilwa observed that a level of compatibility already exists in both protocols.
"Microsoft is making the case that [its flavor of] HTTP 2.0 is more compatible and would lead to faster adoption -- which may be true, but is hard to judge," Hilwa said. "I think these two major browser vendors coming to agreement will be the biggest driver of adoption."
Aggregating the Best Concepts
The goal is not to take one vendor's implementation, but to aggregate the best concepts together to make the best protocol, noted SPDY co-developer Mike Belshe, who currently works for the mobile-apps company Twist.
"If Microsoft has some new ideas that prove to work, that's fantastic," Belshe wrote in a recent Google+ posting. However, the Microsoft blog posted Monday by Paoli and Singhal implies "that SPDY is not optimized for mobile, which is not true," Belshe added.
SPDY is now over three years in the making with a lot of implementation knowledge and deployment expertise on both desktops and mobile, Belshe said.
"Given what other implementers have said about SPDY and mobile, I'd say it's working pretty well, Belshe wrote. "But it could always be better, of course."