Google Chrome users soon will get faster Web access through the Brotli open source compression algorithm, Google Web Performance Engineer Ilya Grigorik said Tuesday.
It has been rolled out to the M49 release of Chrome in Canary, which is designed for devs. It’s not clear when Brotli will surface for other users of the Chrome browser.
Brotli, introduced last year, provides 20-26 percent higher compression ratios over Google’s 2-year-old Zopfli algorithm and provides faster page loads, the company said.
“The core idea of Brotli is derived from a more efficient, next-generation method of managing how Web fonts are encoded — WOFF — and decoded by browsers and servers,” said Sergey Lossev, product manager for Opera Max.
Opera has been “actively investigating” Brotli, he told TechNewsWorld, “but we’re still evaluating whether it’s suitable for large-scale use for our products. If and when we determine [it’s] suitable for wide-scale deployment in Opera browsers and Opera Max, it will mean that users can expect an uptick in savings in Web pages.”
Details on Brotli
The algorithm compresses data using a combination of the L777 algorithm and Huffman coding.
It has been deployed in WOFF 2.0 web fonts for a while without issues, according to the Chromium team.
Firefox already is shipping Brotli, and the M49 launch will be for Facebook.
The Google Fonts API serves CSS responses compressed with Brotli to supporting browsers, according to a blink-dev group. Savings across the top 20 CSS requests with Brotli had a weighted average of 9 percent.
Brotli is supported on all six Blink platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android and Android WebView.
Microsoft’s Edge team apparently is considering the algorithm, and it’s supported in Safari.
CloudFlare’s blog is served on an experimental HTTP2 server that also supports Brotli. The compression possible by Brotli is significant, but for files smaller than 64 KB, which are the majority of files, Brotli 4 is slower than zlib Level 8, it reported. Overall, the state of Brotli left 42CloudFlare with mixed impressions.
“Innovation continues in the browser because of the key role it plays as a portal to the digital economy,” observed Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC.
“Mobile networks are more constrained and website content is always getting heavier, so compression innovation needs to keep moving forward,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Possible Issues With Brotli
The algorithm is restricted to HTTPS connections, and this “means websites that rely on traditional HTTP without SSL are left out in the cold,” Opera’s Lossev said. Further, Brotli must be enabled on both the Web server and the client.
That could slow down its adoption because “lots of websites won’t bother,” he added. “Lots of websites don’t even bother to enable GZIP, which has been a default-included library inside Apache Web servers for many, many years now.”
There will be “quite a long adoption curve for this technology if it’s up to the publisher to take the time and effort to enable it and we need to wait while users update their browsers to Brotli-compatible browsers,” Lossev said.
“There may be a smarter way of helping people save time better, with less effort needed to coordinate between thousands of websites and millions of users,” he said. “That’s what we’re experimenting with at Opera.”
There’s also the danger that Brotli could make it easier for hackers to launch breach exploits because of the improved compression ratio, Lossev suggested. “Breach attacks rely upon a combination of encryption and compression to make guesses about encrypted and compressed usernames and passwords.”