Google Web Accelerator

After trying it out for a while today, I can recommend the Google Web Accelerator. It’s always difficult to judge how much difference these things make, but things do seem speedier, and it’s not caused any problems so far. With the storage and distributed servers they have available to them, Google have been able to take a few clever approaches to speeding up our web use…

  • Fetching from a more local source – it will use servers closer to you, even if you’re getting pages from further away.
  • Smarter caching – not sure to what extent they’re using the information, but Google know better than anyone else how often pages change, so they’re probable best placed to decide when to grab it from cache and when to go and refetch it.
  • Fetching changed parts of pages only – since their software is running on both ends of the connection – your PC and the proxy server it fetches from – they can break pages up into parts, and only download the parts that have changed.
  • Compressing pages – as above – their software at each end, so they can compress by whatever method they think best.
  • Local caching – not something Google can do any better than anyone else, but they’ve certainly got the developer skills to do it as well as anyone.

They say you may not get much benefit on a dial up connection, but it seems to work pretty well here. Since I use this machine on GPRS quite a lot, the saving in data transfer used by compressing and only transmitting changed parts of pages could translate to real money saved – just remember to turn off prefetching if you’re in a similar situation.

Update: There’s some potential side-effects from the prefetching done by this product, discussed several places, but explained best by this article on the O’Reily Radar. I still like the product, but I’d turned off prefetching before even pointing it at the first page, and until some of this stuff is resolved, I’d recommend anyone else doing the same.