Google App Speeds Up Web Surfing

Now that it's mastered loading search results in fractions of a second, Google has opened up its massive computing power to the masses with one goal in mind: to speed up Web surfing. The company has released the Google Web Accelerator, which routes browser activity through Google machines to make Web pages load faster.

Google Web Accelerator employs a number of different methods to speed up Web browsing, including caching frequently looked at pages to make them more accessible. Google will only refresh a Web page when it has been updated, saving the user from reloading content when unnecessary.

The application only benefits broadband users, Google says, because it utilizes techniques such as prefetching, which involves downloading a Web page that Web Accelerator assumes will be visited -- such as the top search result -- even if it is not. Google has implemented similar functionality on its Web site for Mozilla Firefox users.

Google admits there are some potential privacy concerns associated with the application. Although it does not handle requests for secure sites, cookies and passwords submitted via an unencrypted Web page, may be temporarily cached by Google. The company has setup a privacy page specific to the new application that outlines what information is collected.

On the client side, Google Web Accelerator uses a cache separate from the Web browser, which it may be emptied at any time. Additionally, acceleration may be disabled for a specific page.

To prove the application does indeed work, Google Web Accelerator breaks down the time it has saved users. The Performance Statistics page lists the number of pages loaded and the time it would have taken without acceleration enabled.

"One mundane time-waster we all contend with, for example, is waiting for web pages to load. The tantalizing promise of a web page is only seconds away. But even on broadband, the wait's too short to do something else - and just long enough to be irritating," says Google engineer Marius Eriksen. "Let's face it, those seconds add up."

Google Web Accelerator, currently in beta, works automatically with Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows XP and Windows 2000. The application does work with other browsers, but they must be manually configured to use the program for HTTP connections.

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