Zoompf's Web Performance Blog

Two Reasons You Should Look at SPDY: 58.23% and 64.33%

 Billy Hoffman on June 7, 2012. Category: random

Google comes up with lots of interesting technology: PageRank, BigTable, self driving cars. The most interesting invention to me at least recently has been the development of SPDY, Google’s faster HTTP replacement protocol. But will SPDY take off like Gmail? Or end up like Dart, (or Wave, or pubsubhubbub…) Luckily I’ve seen two very important signs in the last few weeks that SPDY has the potential to be hugely successful.


First, Google’s Chrome web browser, which natively supports SPDY, surpassed Internet Explorer in a Stat Counters browser usage survey. While browser stats published by tech news sites analyzing their own web server logs have shown this trend for a while now, Stat Counters is the first mainstream survey where IE is not the top browser. The growth of Chrome has been simply stunning.

The second sign was Mozilla’s release of Firefox 13 this week. While Firefox has support SPDY since version 11, Firefox 13 finally has SPDY supported enabled by default. Given Firefox’s move to automatic updates, adoption of Firefox 13 should be rapid.

Why is this important? Chrome’s share of the browser market is 32.76%. Firefox’s market share is 24.47%. That means that 58.23% of all web browsers support SPDY.


With the majority of web browsers supporting SPDY, website owners (and other web server developers) are much more likely to spend the time and resources implementing SPDY support now that so many people can take advantage of it. Of course, it gets even better. In April, Google released mod_spdy, which enabled SPDY support on Apache. Apache is by far the leading web server with a market share of 64.33%.


SPDY isn’t the only HTTP replacement effort out there. Microsoft has their own proposal as well. It’s called HTTP Speed+Mobility. But with this much momentum around SPDY, it’s likely that HTTP Speed+Mobility will die before it even gets implemented. Consider this: even if Microsoft implemented their proposal in both IE and IIS, the majority of web browsers and web servers still would not support it. And that’s not even considering mobile, where SPDY’s efficient use of network connections via multiplex is arguably more impactful than on the desktop, and in which Microsoft a marginal player at best. Ironically it is now Microsoft at the mercy of the (web) technology monopoly holders!


So, from a pure infrastructure point of view, SPDY has enormous potential to take off. However SPDY has some interesting design decisions (such as requiring SSL) which will limit its actual adoption, regardless of whether support for the protocol exists. I’ll discuss those aspects of SPDY, how to get your website ready for SPDY, and much more in a future blog post. So stay tuned.


    June 7, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    The other popular web server Nginx will have SPDY support anytime soon too (probably this month – http://trac.nginx.org/nginx/roadmap).

    June 8, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Sweet. I saw some stuff in what I thought was the nginx bug tracker, but it’s nice to see this on their roadmap. I was blown away by nginx’s market share on Netcraft’s survey. Definitely a great project to watch.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    For those who want SPDY NOW, but cannot change web server or application server to support it, then F5’s Big IP is here to help. F5 BigIP is the only Application Delivery controller that offers real WPO and FEO. http://www.f5.com/news-press-events/press/2012/20120508b.html

    June 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks for the comment Carl. But I can’t imagine people with such strict hosting restrictions that they cannot change their web server or application server would have the ability to install a dedicated piece of networking hardware costing tens of thousands of dollars :-)

    June 10, 2012 at 2:59 am

    No solution is one size fits all. There are options, and the customer at the end of the day will decide what fits for them.

    June 10, 2012 at 5:33 am

    ‘While browser stats published by tech news sites analyzing their own web server logs have shown this trend for a while now, Stat Counters is the first mainstream survey where IE is not the top browser.’

    You really make it sound like ‘mainstream’ stat reports are fudging their data (or hedging their relationship with MS).

    I’ve worked on about 20 different privately held ecommerce companies in the last year that generate over $1mil annual online revenue. None are “tech” sites. Travel, leisure, automotive, etc. In every case, IE is still dominant with over 50% traffic and revenue. What’s actually interesting is that, while in almost every case Safari is a distant #4 browser in terms of traffic, it’s often the #3 browser in terms of revenue. Chrome is often #4, never #2. Firefox is often #2, never #4. A business has to target where the money is, not where you’d like the consumer’s technology to be.

    June 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm


    I wasn’t implying that “mainstream” surveys or “mainstream” sites are fudging their data. People who read technical news sites or blogs tend to be more computer literate and tend to use non-default browsers, like Firefox, or Chrome. So when Ars Technica or Tom’s Hardware or HardOPC writes a news story about how their server logs show high usage numbers for Chrome or Firefox, that’s not surprising. In fact, it’s hardly even news. My point is that more mainstream surveys, which better represent the total population of browsers and which suffer far less from sampling bias, are now showing the majority of browsers are SPDY capable.

    I completely agree with you that “[a] busiess has to target where the money is.” This Stats Counter survey, coupled with SPDY’s available for the most popular web server, is making SPDY support more and more an obvious and beneficial economic decision. Individual sites should check their own logs, but the trend is moving towards widespread SPDY support, even among non-technical users.

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