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Making The Web Faster: CloudFlare Adds Support For Google’s SPDY Protocol

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CloudFlare, the fast-growing service that aims to make websites faster and safer, today announced this it starting to roll out support for Google’s SPDY protocol on its network. For the time being, this is just a beta test (you can sign up here), but the company will likely roll this feature out to all of its paying customers later this year.

Google announced its SPDY project more than two years ago. The idea behind it is to improve HTTP by reducing overhead (SPDY only opens one connection to the server and can fetch more than one resource at a time) and compressing data wherever possible. Today, SPDY is obviously being used heavily by Google, both on its servers and in its Chrome browser. Since the launch of Firefox 11 earlier this year, Mozilla’s browser now also supports it and Amazon’s Silk browser for the Kindle Fire uses it to talk to Amazon’s servers. A number of large web services, including Twitter, have also enabled SPDY support over the last few months.

On the server side, developers can now enable SPDY support on their Apache servers without too much effort. The increasingly popular nginx web server also added supports for it recently. As CloudFlare uses nginx extensively, as the company’s co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince noted today, it’s this support for SPDY in nginx that now allows his company to roll this feature out to its users.

As SPDY currently requires SSL, though (that’s a decision Google made early on), and as SSL is only available for paying CloudFlare users, you need to be a paying customer to apply for the  SPDY beta on CloudFlare.

Sometimes, SPDY Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

According to some recent research, SPDY works well in some situations, but can actually slow some servers down when resources are distributed among multiple domains. CloudFlare can avoid most of these issues though, as it caches all of these resources on its own domain courtesy of its RocketLoader feature.