What would you do with a faster Web? It's a question Google engineers asked some time ago when they developed the SPDY protocol. Now, with an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meeting on the near horizon, Microsoft is weighing into the fray with its own opinion on the subject, and its own take on how to make the Web faster for everyone.
SPDY, as you might recall from an earlier E2 article on the subject, is Google's augmentation of HTTP, the basic transport protocol on which the Web runs. It has the advantage of being able to coexist with HTTP, as a SPDY-capable server will return HTTP traffic when presented with an HTTP request.
In its statements regarding SPDY and its own new protocol, which for the moment is going by the name "Speed+Mobility" (and no, I won't be shortening that to initials just to save space), Microsoft says that it approves of everything Google has done and simply wants to build on the search-giant's efforts. The main thrust of Microsoft's improvements will come, it says, in portions of the transport protocol optimized for mobile devices.
Now, it's hard to argue that HTTP could use some help. Designed to move text from one computer to another, it's far from optimal for our rich-media, app-centric Web of 2012. It's also welcome news that both Google and Microsoft are taking their proposals before the IETF. We've seen far too many proprietary protocols and formats over the years: I'm not going to say anything bad about a company offering its ideas to the world through a standards organization.
But enough praise: What's in it for us? Let's assume for a moment that Microsoft, Google, and the IETF will figure everything out and we'll end up with a glorious new protocol, optimized for today's Web, that we'll use to carry us into the future of Internet commerce. What will you give your customers with all this new speed and power? I've got a couple of ideas.
First, let's agree that we won't use it to to fill everyone's device (and data plan) with video. Moving pictures are wonderful, but a new protocol won't make them any smaller. Instead, I think it can be argued that both the new protocols are perfect companions for HTML 5, the Web programming language that will be able to deliver text, apps, animation, and more to all sorts of devices. That's where you'll be able to make a real difference for your customers, and where that difference might have a huge impact on your customer experience.
The other opportunity SPDY and its Microsoft kin brings is for retailers to optimize their online stores and apps to make the experience faster and better for all customers -- whether they have SPDY or not.
Now, I have to hope that Microsoft comes up with a much better name for its protocol (I can't avoid typing the initials forever), but I believe that both these efforts are steps in a great direction. How would you use a faster Web? What kind of experience could you give your customers if you knew that they would get Web results with less delay? Let us know -- and please, be SPDY about it.