Earlier this week Opera unveiled a preview build called Opera Turbo (based on v10 – Peregrine) with server-side compression. Opera Turbo features a built in proxy that redirects all http traffic through Opera’s servers. The website data is compressed by the server and sent to the user. Opera claims that its servers can compress data by upto 80%. Since the amount of data to be downloaded is drastically reduced websites will appear to open significantly faster on slower connections. Text as well as images are compressed, without altering the layout of the webpage. The compressed images are of visibly lower quality than the original images. All flash elements are blocked by default and will only be downloaded if requested by the user. GIF images and other web elements aren’t compressed at all. Websites behind SSL are also not compressed. Opera Turbo also includes delayed script execution which ensures that the main content (text) of the webpage is loaded first. Most of the times this works out really nicely, but sometimes the scripts kick in a tad too late.
Image After Compression
Opera Turbo isn’t exactly revolutionary. Opera itself used to provide a similar service as a premium product (called Opera Slipstream) and uses a similar technique for its mobile browser Opera Mini (the technology behind the two is quite different though). Products like Onspeed and Artera Turbo have been in the market for a long time. However none of the currently existing solutions are free. The cost behind this technology is likely to be significant since Opera’s servers would need to handle massive volumes of data once Turbo is integrated in the final desktop builds. However, Opera clearly believes the number if new users that can be gained is significant enough to make the effort worthwhile.
In my testing I found Opera Turbo to be significantly faster than Opera v10 standard as well as other browsers (Firefox v3.1 b3 and Safari 4.0 b1) on my College Wifi. While broadband users aren’t likely to notice huge improvements with Opera Turbo, this is definitely a boon to people with slow internet connections. However, Opera Turbo still requires a lot of fine-tuning. A reasonable amount of websites don’t work properly with Opera Turbo enabled. The ability to set the compression levels is an essential feature that Turbo is lacking at the moment. It would also be nice to have a whitelisting feature that would allow users to pre-define websites for which turbo should be disabled. If you want to give Opera Turbo a try grab the preview build from Opera labs for your system.