Garett Vail is Republic’s Vice President of Product Management. He recently landed an interview with Ilya Grigorik, the Chrome web-performance guru at Google who opened up about the recently released ‘Data Compression Proxy’ feature in the Chrome mobile browser. Read on for the official scoop!


Google’s llya Grigorik and his team have recently released a ‘Data Compression Proxy’ feature in the Chrome mobile browser that allows faster, safer and for some, cheaper mobile web browsing. This is the wireless equivalent of scoring an on-field interview with a Gatorade-soaked Pete Carroll after his team has won the Super Bowl. 

Chrome’s Data Compression Proxy is an opt-in feature within the Chrome mobile browser.  When enabled it can reduce bandwidth 50% on average by opening a connection between your phone and one of Google’s optimization servers.  When your device makes a request for data it’s proxied through Google’s server, which then optimizes the content you requested before delivering it to your device.  You can enable this feature within your phone's Google Chrome settings by going to “Settings → Bandwidth Management → Reduce Data Usage” and toggle the setting to “On.”

Chrome Data Management.pngWhy should you care about a feature in Chrome that reduces bandwidth while on an unlimited plan? A couple potential reasons, the first being the impact it has on speed. Ilya will get into that in his Q&A, so we won’t spoil it here. But another potential reason would be the effect this app has on data usage. As our community members know, we’re all about reducing our overall cellular footprint -- it’s where our insanely low cost plans come from! So, any new functionality like this that offers an improvement in your experience AND cell data reduction is worth sharing in our book. Now, without further ado, let’s let Ilya address some key questions about this new and important opt-in feature within your Chrome mobile browser...

GV: We love a good product story.  What’s the genesis of the Data Compression Proxy feature in Chrome, how did it come about?

IG: At Google, speed is a feature. We invest a lot effort into optimizing our own products and we’re always looking for ways to optimize the underlying platform: faster browsers, protocols, new performance standards, and so on. Chrome Data Compression proxy was born directly out of these efforts: we realized that despite all of our best efforts, some sites may simply not have the technical expertise, or the time, to keep up with all the advances, and that’s why we’ve built the service. The Chrome Data Compression proxy allows us to roll out all of the best and latest optimizations we apply on our own products across the entire web and make the mobile web experience more affordable and enjoyable.

GV: What types of data savings, on a percentage basis, should users expect to see on average?

IG: The data savings will vary for each site based on how many of the best practices they’ve already put in place. Similarly, the savings will vary based on user navigation patterns: Chrome Data Compression proxy does not apply for pages loaded in Incognito mode, or pages fetched over HTTPS. That said, where the optimizations do apply, our studies have shown to reduce the size of web pages by 50% on average.

GV: Why should a user, especially on an unlimited data plan like Republic Wireless, use this feature?  Are there benefits beyond saving data?

IG: Reducing the total number of transferred bytes helps improve the page load time and rendering speeds. While there is always an exception to the rule, typically smaller pages are faster pages. Further, aside from bandwidth savings, there is also an extra layer of security provided by Safe Browsing: the proxy will warn the user if it detects a malicious destination.

GV: Will this feature operate any differently if a user is on WiFi vs. a cellular data connection?

IG: No, the same optimizations are applied in both cases.

GV: Can you tell us about Google's Safe Browsing technology, which is part of this update... what should our users know?

IG: Security is one of the core tenets of Chrome and Safe Browsing allows Chrome to notify and warn the user if the destination page has been flagged as a known malware or phishing site: a warning page is shown and the user can make the choice to abort the navigation or click through if they still wish to visit the site.

GV: Does the data management feature only apply to data requests made through Google Chrome, or does it apply to other Google services and/or apps?

IG: As the name implies, Chrome Data Compression is a Chrome-only feature available for Android and iOS platforms. When enabled, unless the request is made from an Incognito window or is going to an HTTPS site, it is routed to the compression proxy which then fetches the content, optimizes it, and returns the content to users device.

GV: Has Google done any cost calculations you'd be willing to share regarding estimated money savings among mobile phone users, for instance, on an "industry average" data plan?

IG: It’s important to keep in mind that there are many markets where data is still very, very expensive. As such, “average” savings will vary dramatically based on which market we focus on. In some countries, it’s not just a question of savings, but whether you can afford the data plan at all.

GV: What other areas of data management should we expect to see the Google team pursue in the future?

IG: The team is always investigating new techniques to improve the compression gains and overall performance of how quickly the page is rendered on users’ devices. Expect to see more savings and faster speeds! Best of all, this is all transparent to the user.

Thanks so much to Ilya and the Google Chrome team for spending time to answer our questions and we’ll look forward to their future innovations around optimizing our mobile web experience. As always, we look forward to seeing your questions and comments here.