The recent Chrome Beta for Android update was notable for including password and form sync, but it turns out there is another feature lurking beneath the surface, and it's potentially a big deal. Google has built in a data compression proxy for Chrome that can reduce bandwidth usage by up to 50% on mobile networks. You'll have to do a little digging through the Chrome flags, but it's relatively easy to switch to the fast lane.


Just type chrome://flags into the address bar and enable the Experimental Data Compression Proxy. When that's done, all HTTP traffic will be routed through Google's SPDY servers where pages will be optimized for Chrome. Images account for most of the data downloaded, so Google will use the WebP format to shrink JPEGs and PNGs. JavaScript and CSS will also be streamlined, but Google claims the process is "intelligent" and shouldn't completely break websites. All resources will be gzip compressed when they reach the device for additional bandwidth savings, as well.

This feature is reminiscent of Opera's Turbo mode, or the Kindle Fire's Silk browser. As carriers continue to impose restrictive caps, this feature could get a lot of use. There is no UI toggle right now – just the flag. It was only spotted in the source code the other day, and it's already in the Beta. I imagine this feature will be made more accessible at some point in the not too distant future.

[Chromium Blog, Google Developers, François Beaufort]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://twitter.com/zackeryfretty Zackery Fretty

    I'm sure this will be pretty sweet, it works great on Opera Mobile.

    • itsgonnalast

      I always liked how Opera Mobile seems to compress ads. It's almost as good as adblock.

    • Peacen1k

      How much more battery does that cost?

      • VandrĂ© Brunazo

        Uh? Why exactly would it cost more battery? From what I understand it would cost less. It would cost Google servers more battery tho :-P

        • Peacen1k

          Maybe I misunderstood the process. I was thinking there's some extra decompression involved on the browser app side.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

            No, I see what you were thinking, but it doesn't appear to be the type of compressing that needs decompressing on the client side. There's probably a better term for the process, but it's basically compressing it to a smaller file size for a quicker download. I think it's like converting a wav file to mp3.

          • Peacen1k

            That makes sense. Thanks!

  • http://www.twitter.com/andrewpalozzo Andrew Palozzo

    I've always wondered if reducing / compressing the images wouldn't increase the speed of the browser overall as well?

    • Floss

      It's a double edged sword. Uncompressing the stream also takes processing, which can cause stuttering which can make it appear slower even if it overall ran faster.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

        I don't think it's the type of compressing that needs decompressing on the client side. Think wav to mp3.

        • On a Clear Day

          Rest assured if there are bugs, Google will call in one of their exterminators and kill them off. You gotta love Google! LOL

          Unlike another company, who shall remain unnamed who is sue happy, that tries to lock you into their growing tinier by the day world, and then throw away the keys; Google on the other hand, does "things", creates "things"that serve really useful, valuable purposes for peole - like Gmail, like this new data thus money saving service that address a real concern zillions of people the world over who worry about getting capped will willingly flock to.

          And the price we pay? Enduring a few ads - like we haven't seen one before and can't live through one! Money makes the world go around; money is not evil, nor is capitalism nor is using one's head intelligently, creatively and intuitively as the folks at Google have been and continue to do to keep us interested and happily coming back.

          And, unlike the other, the unnamed company, whose stock price is only half that of Google's $800.00 +/- figure, the stock market is rewarding the initiative of Google and the commerce it is helping generate for their advertisers and the value they are giving each of we, the little people! SMS

          Keep up the good work Google, because, we inquiring minds want to know!

        • Floss

          Err, mp3 most definitely has to be decompressed to be played. There is no such thing as one way compression.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

            I can't say I'm an expert when it comes to mp3, but if that example doesn't work for you, how about TIF to JPG? The point is, Chrome handles the format natively, so I don't think you're spending any real time decompressing.

          • Floss

            No you really don't seem to have any understanding of how compression works. Having native support to play a format has absolutely nothing to do with how much work the local machine has to do to get it into a usable format. JPG also has to be decompressed back into a pixel array in order to be displayed. ALL compressed formats have to be uncompressed in order to be used.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1808599231 Ariel Felder

    It's in the stable release version as well not just the beta

    • Bass.Boi

      Yes, i have the option as well, Nexus4 and non-beta Chrome release.

    • andy gowrley

      Maybe a regional thing? I am in the UK and it is not showing up on chrome stable on my nexus but there on chrome beta when downloaded.
      If Google really pushes this tech it will become like blackberry is the network providers friend if it reduces bandwidth on the network. People will still want to stream voip and use https which I guess is not compressed by this service?
      Also I can't imagine apple will let Google allow this in chrome IOS so may become a major plus for android users.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

      I have it in the beta, but it's not there for me in the most recent stable release (25.0.1364.123). I'm in the US (NJ) and I just checked the Play Store, so this appears to be the most recent version.

      • K.P. Smith

        Open Chrome > Type "chrome://flags" into the URL bar > Hit go > Hit settings button (3 dots) > select "find on page" > Type "SPDY" > Enable SPDY/3
        This is how to do it on the stable release 25.0.1364.123 on my N4.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

          That doesn't appear to be the same thing. I say that because the beta version has this setting as well (Enable SPDY/3), in addition to the setting described in this article (Enable Data Compression Proxy).

          • K.P. Smith

            In that case I can only assume that the others thought the same thing I did because apart from the SPDY setting, there's no mention of SPDY or compression in the stable ::shrug::

            I'm going to stop using chrome anyway until they fix the damn blurry text issue >:-/

          • SickoPsycho

            "The goal of SPDY is to reduce web page load time.[8] This is achieved by prioritizing and multiplexing the transfer of web page subresources?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

            Thank you, SickoPsycho, but I didn't need a SPDY lesson. The two options may in fact do the same exact thing, but I was simply pointing out that they are two DIFFERENT options in "chrome://flags."

          • SickoPsycho

            ahh. I digress.

  • Matthew Fry

    Yeah but my phone is 1280x720 and my tablet is 2560x1600. I don't want pictures to look bad...

    • jm9843

      Go compare jpg to webp and note the accompanying file sizes: https://developers.google.com/speed/webp/gallery1

      If you can spot significant differences than your eyes are better than mine.

      • Matthew Fry

        very nice! I've not heard of this webp compression before.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

        Wow, I clicked on a few of the pictures to do a side-by-side comparison and I think someone could make a case that the webp version looks BETTER. Seriously, though, they're 99% identical.

  • mgamerz

    Too bad stable sucks on my gnex. Theres like a 1 second lag between screen swiping and it actually doing anything.

  • http://twitter.com/GAndPT Trixie Lulamoon

    lol says the update isnt compatable with the nexus 7. Very odd.

  • AllPurposeRadio

    Just enabled this on the stable version of Chrome and after just surfing a few sites and I'm seriously impressed at the improvement.

  • Ryuuie

    The sad thing is that casual people will see this as yet another "way for Google to steal your information" despite this type of feature has been used previously and people knowing it by another name.

    This is the only thing people will remember about the feature and I wouldn't be surprised if some idiot tried to sue Google or Microsoft or Apple tried to bring it to the US government's attention to stop it from happening.

    I wish I was joking.

    • http://twitter.com/RvLeshrac RvLeshrac

      Those of us who find it intrusive when forced have ALWAYS found it intrusive when forced. As long as it is a toggle, no one really cares.

    • s44

      Except this is exactly why I never used Skyfire, Opera Mini, or the Kindle Fire.

      • Wam31

        ... and why don't you just disable the feature instead ???
        Not using Opera (or whatever) because of a feature that you can (read: if you want) activate or not is pretty dumb.

  • HebeGuess

    Just noticed priorty No.1 benefit for Google itself after implementing the proxy..
    Ad mob seems to flow through it, thus adAway now breaks if you wanna faster expereinces from chrome.

  • Robert Blenkinsopp

    The SPDY option has certainly been under flags in the beta for a fair number of weeks now, That said I never tried it before today to see if it was actually implemented.

    • Jeff B

      Correct SPDY has been there for weeks. This the Experimental Data Compression Proxy option which uses a SPDY server. This was just added to the latest beta.

  • yahyoh

    Its me or this beta feels slightly smoother but still a bit choppy sometime :)

  • Tony Ross

    thanks for the heads up on this