HTTP affects how fast data is transferred on the Internet. Google and Microsoft have developed new protocols to improve data transfer speed.

We often don’t think of those four letters at the start of every web address. HTTP stands for hyper-text transfer protocol, and it’s the protocol language responsible for sending data back and forth between the browser on a client computer, viewing content on the Internet, and the servers delivering that data. This week the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is meeting to discuss how to create an HTTP 2.0: a faster, updated revision of Internet communication.


Contenders for delivering the next transfer protocol are (unsurprisingly) Microsoft and Google. SPDY (pronounced “speedy”) is Google’s submission for consideration. The protocol would completely replace HTTP but would still handle all of the same functions – just in half the time, claims Google. Chrome and Firefox are already supporting the SPDY protocol, and websites like Google and Twitter are already using SPDY instead of HTTP when they can.

Microsoft’s contribution is called HTTP Speed+Mobility. Maybe a little less catchy but it makes the same speed improvement claims that SPDY does. What sets it apart from SPDY is that Microsoft says HTTP Speed+Mobility not only improves web browser communication speed but app speed as well. By tapping into the HTML5 Web Sockets API, Microsoft has bumped up the speed of communication for apps on mobile devices.

Despite the importance of being picked as the new web standard communication protocol, neither Google nor Microsoft seems to be at each others throats about trying to “win.” Microsoft’s official blog post about its protocol applauds the great strides SPDY has taken to reevaluate communication online and the co-inventor of SPDY, Google’s Mike Belshe wrote on Google Plus that he looks forward to working with Microsoft for the benefit of everyone.

Having said that, Belshe went on to say that Microsoft’s assertion that SPDY isn’t optimized for the mobile web is not true. Citing recent app developers that have used SPDY, Belshe says that those developers are happy. No doubt there is always room for improvement, finished Belshe, but SPDY is doing just fine in terms of app communication speed on mobile devices.

In reality, the IETF won’t just be picking a new protocol and declaring it the winner. Many predict that the task force will take the best ideas from Microsoft’s and Google’s solutions (as well as any others that might show up in between now and the meeting later this week) and make it into the best possible protocol to speed up the web.

Some critics say that Microsoft’s claims about HTTP Speed+Mobility are vague and that the company hasn’t provided enough hard data about how the protocol has made a hybrid between browser communication speed and app communication speed as well as how fast the new protocol actually speeds everything up. At this point, critics don’t seem to be giving up on Microsoft; instead they seem to be hoping the company will provide more data to the IETF so a better decision can be made with more data.

Of course there’s a lot more to server-browser communication speed than just HTTP. Google has also posted suggestions on its official blog to improve Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) to also speed up the passing of data between servers and clients on the Internet.

One of the company’s biggest ideas is to change how the TCP connections deal with packet loss. When networks are congested, packet loss occurs more often, so to deal with that, TCP simply reduces the data transfer rate on the network. Google says that TCP reduces the rate too much and that the company has created an algorithm that handles packet loss in a way that doesn’t sacrifice data transfer speed as much as the current system.

To check out more about how Google is innovating the most basic tools on the Internet (like the Google search engine), check out our blog post about the latest changes coming to Google search.