Unless you've been curled up under a rock for the last six months, you've probably noticed that there's been something going on in the UK . Something rewarding physical endeavour and frequently speed. We're speed freaks. We push to make ourselves harder, better, faster, stronger, as the Daft Punk song goes.
We're also smart, skilful people. We all love heist movies where cons completely blindside do-gooders. I'm a keen cyclist and for me, it's not just about physical effort; it's about co-ordination, balance and skill. Most sports have technique and smart ways of thinking to overcome the competition.
Athletes, thinkers and scientists are all like this. We applaud the lateral. Sometimes, it's not about going guns blazing, it's about doing more with what you've already got.
Trouble on the Web
The web is a bit like this. We've seen ISPs and mobile providers clamouring for more speed, putting more fibre optic cable in the ground and bidding for the faster 4G mobile spectrum. But surely we could do more with what we have?
One of the problems is HTTP, the basic protocol that most of us see prefixing web addresses every day of the year. HTTP is a smart protocol responsible for handling how hypertext (a misleading label - hypertext can include images, videos and lots of non-text content) is sent across the web, but it's a smart protocol which was last updated in 1999.
Think about it: In 1999, we'd never seen a smartphone or tablet. Wi-Fi wasn't really 'a thing' for most of us until Intel Centrino processors started shipping in 2003. ADSL broadband as we know it was only commercially rolled out in 2000.
At the same time, our technology architecture is changing. Our PCs are enormously powerful. In 1999, the average laptop was pushing a 400Mhz processor. Today, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything less than five times that powerful, and that's even before we start talking about dual-core and quad-core processing.
SPDING Up The Web
This is where SPDY - a new protocol, developed by Google to augment HTTP - comes in. SPDY recognises that our PCs are powerful, so compresses information by default, making data transmission faster but leaving some 'work' to be done at either end. It's intelligent about how it prioritises web pages - in HTTP, servers can't request information; only real people can. SPDY allows servers to send popular "background" content to users automatically. This is useful in a menagerie of situations - imagine that nine out of ten people going to news.bbc.co.uk then go on to look at pages about a particular sporting event. SPDY allows servers to send this information to PCs automatically when people first land on the news.bbc.co.uk page, pre-caching and accelerating experience when they do request content from bbc.co.uk/sport.
SPDY doesn't bombard users with content they've already got, such as web page headers, pushing speeds up. It also uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer, an encryption technology) as standard, making the web more secure. For everyday users on Chrome or Firefox browsers, they may already be receiving the speed improvement by using SPDY. Large organisations may have to update their web servers, but there are often easier ways of doing this.
A Step in the Right Direction
SPDY isn't a panacea to our internet browsing ills, that's for sure. But it's a step in the right direction. We spend so long craving higher speeds, fatter pipes, more megs of mobile downloads that we often forget about inventiveness. After all, Steven Sasson didn't invent the digital camera in 1976 from state of the art equipment - he made it out of scavenged lab parts in an Eastman Kodak basement. JK Rowling didn't create the £9.6bn Harry Potter franchise on a sleek Sony Vaio in the Ritz, she did it on a delayed train using just her brain. A lot of good ideas have humble, lateral beginnings.
It's less glamorous, less cool, less pre-packaged - perhaps a bit less 'Apple' than we're used to today. Some people might think it's anal to try and squeeze the most possible use out of our bandwidth.
I think it's ingenious.
Follow Nathan Pearce on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pearcenathan