File Under: Browsers

Opera’s ‘SPDY’ Sense Tingling in Labs Release

The latest Labs release of Opera’s flagship desktop web browser adds support for the nascent SPDY protocol.

You can download the latest Opera Labs build for Windows 32-bit, Windows 64-bit, Mac and Linux from Opera.

SPDY, pronounced “speedy,” is a replacement for the HTTP protocol — the language currently used when your browser talks to a web server. When you request a webpage or a file from a server, chances are your browser sends that request using HTTP. The server answers using HTTP, too. This is why “http” appears at the beginning of most web addresses.

The SPDY protocol handles all the same tasks as HTTP, but SPDY can do it all about 50 percent faster.

SPDY started life as a proprietary protocol at Google and worked only in the company’s Chrome web browser. SPDY has since won support elsewhere, with Firefox and Chrome already shipping with SPDY built-in.

Opera hasn’t announced when SPDY support will arrive in the stable release, but when it does the majority of browsers on the web will support the SPDY protocol. The major missing player is Microsoft, which has proposed a slightly different take on the same ideas behind SPDY. Which one becomes an official standard is up to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which is in the process of creating HTTP 2.0, a faster, modern approach to internet communication.

To notice any SPDY-related speed improvements in the latest version of Opera Labs you’ll have to connect to SPDY servers. Although not yet widespread, SPDY is already enabled on some very large sites, including Google’s main search page, Gmail and Twitter among others. Also, note that you don’t need to type spdy://somesite.com. When the browser uses SPDY it all happens transparently behind the scenes.

If you’d like to get your own site serving over SPDY, check out mod_spdy, a SPDY module for the Apache server (currently a beta release) or read up on Nginx’s preliminary support.