The new feature that Chrome has its sights on is Opera Turbo. When Opera Turbo is enabled all HTTP traffic is redirected through Opera’s servers where text and images are compressed. The browser sitting on your system downloads this compressed data, instead of loading the full page. While image compression can reduce quality and the re-routing can increase latency, on slower connections this can result in significant speed improvements. If you are on a metered connection that is billed according to the data usage, this will even save you money by reducing the amount of data downloaded. In the recently released Opera for Android, the veteran browser firm re-branded Turbo as Off-road mode and gave it a more prominent spot in the user interface. Now, Google has announced that Chrome for Android will also incorporate a similar feature in the near future.
In fact, if you are on the beta channel, you can already try out this new feature. Just open up chrome://flags in your browser and select Enable Data Compression Proxy. Google is using the open-source PageSpeed libraries, which are specifically tuned for the Chrome for Android, to perform the compression. All images will be automatically converted to Google’s WebP image format. Additionally, Google is also hoping to reduce latency by using its own SPDY protocol for communications between the proxy server and your browser. You can keep a tab on the bandwidth savings by opening the bandwidth section of chrome://net-internals.
To be fair, Opera didn’t exactly invent the data compression proxy feature. Before it embedded Turbo, it had tied up with a company called Slipstream, which provided a similar compression service. However, enabling this feature required purchasing a subscription. And, even before this, there were companies like ONSPEED providing similar services to users through third-party software. However, Opera undoubtedly made the feature mainstream. It was also the first company that I am aware of to offer it for free. Opera took the concept to the next level with Opera Mini, in which not only were the resources compressed, but the entire web page was also rendered on the remote server. A static representation (OBML) was sent back to the browser. It’s important to note that the Turbo feature in Opera Mobile and Opera Desktop, and Opera Mini are different. Remote rendering in Opera Mini allows it to run on extremely low-end phones, but also prevents it from working with modern dynamic websites. Chrome’s new compression technology will be similar to Turbo in Opera Mobile (now called Off-road) and not Opera Mini.