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New Google Software Attempts to Speed Up Your Web Browsing Experience

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As I compose this post, a recent issue of Fortune magazine with Bill Gates on the cover is sitting next to my computer. Fred Voglestein's cover story says, "the darling of search is moving into software—and that's Microsoft's turf."

Let the turf war continue.

Google Labs has just released (beta), web accelerator software thats designed to speed up your online experience and make your surfing faster and more efficient. I'm sure it will also fuel plenty of additional speculation about Google's play in the OS and browser arenas.

If you're wondering, all of the technology was developed by Google.

Google Web Accelerator (GWA) is client software along with a plug-in (about 1.4MB) that's installed on your computer. It's only available for Windows (Win XP or Win 2000 SP3+) and works with Internet Explorer or Firefox. According to Google's Marissa Mayer, this is the first product that she knows of that's built and optimized for broadband web users. She added that dial-up users are also welcome to use the software.


How it Works
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Unfortunately, SEW wasn't given a pre-release version of GWA to test so we can't share any first-hand experiences using the product.

What we do know is that GWA uses a number of techniques to speed up web browsing. Mayer told me that some Googlers who have been testing the product internally have saved over an hour a month waiting for material to download. She added Google Web accelerator includes a clock that shows the user how much time they're saving. Note to Google: More info about how you're computing this time savings would be not only useful but also very interesting.

Unlike Google pre-fetch product that was released for Firefox about a month ago, GWA works to speed up the surfing process for all web sites NOT only Google by a combination of:

+ Prefetching material
In part, determined by an algorithm developed at Google that looks at
mouse movements and aggregate traffic to sites to try to determine what to prefetch
+ Caching of pages on Google's own servers
They will also try to determine how frequently material is updated and continuously have the latest copy available on their servers. Mayer said that GWA and Google's new search history product are completely independent of one another.
+ Parallel downloading
Download multiple parts of the page (images for example) at the same
time.
+ Differential fetching
Instead of downloading the entire page, GWA will try send only what
might have changed on the page
+ Compression
Mayer added however that GWA tries not to change the quality of images and other material.

Like many of Google's products and servers the company says it has no plans (for now) to monetize this service. However, you could let your mind wander and think about Google potentially working with ISP's to provide the technology to help market the product and perhaps optimizing the technology for specific ISP's. Right now, GWA is completely ISP independent. Enterprise sales are another obvious revenue stream.

Where This Fits In
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When you look at Google's mission about organizing all of the world's info and make it universally useful and accessible, you would have to say that Google Web Accelerator fits into the making info more accessible part. According to Mayer, "the faster the web is, the better and more efficient the web is for all users."


Webmasters
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Mayer told me that when Google prefetches a page, webmasters will see a Google user agent in their user logs. In other cases, GWA will proxy the traffic of the GWA user. Much more for webmasters here.

Final Notes
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According to the web site, the GWA is only available to users in North America and Europe during the beta phase. A Google Web Accelerator FAQ and discussion board is also available. You might also want to review the GWA privacy policy.

Postscript: I just installed GWA and reviewed the preferences page. Here you can select:
+ Connection Speed
+ Toggle pre-fetching on or off. You can also select to have prefetched pages highlighted with a double-underline.
+ Clear your history file
+ Tell GWA not to accelerate specific sites/domains.


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