Google's latest Android browser promises faster surfing

Data compression has been added to Chrome mobile to reduce data loads

Faster Web browsing and lower data use might be on the cards for Android mobile phone users if they download a new version of the Chrome Web browser offered by Google.

The latest Chrome Beta for Android, which was made available on Tuesday, includes an "experimental data compression feature" that Google said could reduce data loads by up to 60 percent on some sites.

The system works by sending most Web requests through a proxy server, which sits in between the user's browser and the destination Web server. The server is running SPDY, a Google-developed protocol designed to reduce the data size of Web content.

It does this through tricks such as compressing the text in pages, sending multiple simultaneous requests to a Web server and by transcoding images into a more efficient format called WebP.

WebP is a Google-developed image format that is said to reduce image size by 26 percent against PNG (Portable Network Graphics) images and by between 25 percent and 34 percent against the JPEG format. Support for the format is already in Chrome, Opera and Android from version 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich," and can be added to Internet Explorer with the Chrome Frame plug-in.

The system works on all non-secure connections to websites using the HTTP protocol. Connections to secure sites using the HTTPS protocol are handled as normal and don't flow through the SPDY proxy. As an added advantage, non-secure connections are encrypted using SSL between the phone and proxy. Google's Safe Browsing feature is also enabled, which helps guard against malware and phishing attacks.

Users can find the beta version of the Chrome browser by following this link. It won't appear through a search of the Play Store.

Once installed, the system needs to be enabled. That can be done by navigating the browser to "chrome://flags" and setting "Experimental Data Compression Proxy" to on.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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