Mozilla is taking a page from Google’s Chrome development and is gearing up to implement a new protocol to help accelerate the Firefox web browser. The open source Firefox 11 browser, which is now in beta, will include the SPDY protocol. The current stable release of Firefox is version 10, which was released last week.
SPDY is a web protocol first introduced by Google in November of 2009. SPDY, pronounced ‘Speedy’, is all about making the web faster by helping to reduce page load speeds. SPDY is a TCP optimization technology that accelerates page loads by using fewer TCP connections.
“Many web pages are full of small icons and script references,” Mozilla developer Patrick McManus wrote in a blog post. “The speed of those transfers is limited by network delay instead of bandwidth. SPDY ramps up the parallelism, which in turn removes the serialized delays experienced by HTTP/1 and the end result is faster page load time.”
Mozilla’s decision to finally embrace SPDY was applauded by Google developer Matt Cutts who simply tweeted, “Really nice to see Firefox adding SPDY support.”
While SPDY began as a Google effort, it has since expanded beyond the confines of the Googleplex. Mozilla’s McManus noted that SPDY implementations can now be found in multiple places beyond the Google Chrome browser, including the node.js framework, the nginx web server and on the Amazon Kindle Fire.
“There is also discussion and preliminary movement in all the right standardization forums such as the W3C TAG and the IETF,” McManus said. “Open standardization of the protocol is a key condition of Mozilla’s interest in it, but it is not a precondition to using it.”
While Mozilla is landing SPDY support in Firefox 11, in the beta stage it’s not explicitly enabled by default. Firefox 11 beta users need to enable the SPDY support by way of an ‘about:config’ option.
Though Mozilla is just now adding preliminary support for SPDY, the open source browser vendor was busy in 2011 adding other protocol level optimizations to help accelerate Firefox.
Firefox 5 introduced a ‘Sort Idle HTTP Connections by CWND’ feature. That feature optimizes the round trip time of HTTP by minimizing the number of congestion windows (CWND) needed to access a web page.