Google introduced a new compression algorithm called Brotli in order to reduce the traffic of web pages. The idea is that web sites transmit everything that composes the various pages in this compressed format allowing in this way also a higher loading speed. Google released Brotli as free / open source software under the Apache 2.0 license and put the source code available to anyone on GitHub.
Two years ago, Google had already released another compression algorithm called Zopfli. It was welcomed in a positive way but the file compression tooke relatively long time. For this reason, Zopfli has been adopted especially for the compression of static content rather than for on-the-fly compression needs.
The positive feedback, however, stimulated Google to keep on developing solutions in the field of compression. In Zopfli the choice was to maintain compatibility with existing data formats, in creating Brotli instead it was decided to adopt a new data format.
The result is an algorithm that according to Google can obtain between 20% and 26% more compression than Zopfli. In the official announcement of Brotli’s release, various technical information are provided and there’s also a link to a study that compares it with other compression algorithms.
Zoltan Szabadka, the Google’s Software Engineer of the Compression Team, points out that the use of Brotli could bring more benefits to mobile users. That’s because typically mobile connections have traffic limits so a drop in the amount of data would be positive but also the batteries would be used less due to less use of the connection.
In order to use Brotli during a connection to a website, you need your browser to support that algorithm. It’s impossible to say whether this algorithm will become a web standard or it will remain confined to a few niche uses. It’s plausible that it will be supported by Chrome / Chromium, then we must see what the other major browsers’ producers will do.