My entire career as a journalist covering the mobile technology industry can be traced back to one application: Opera Mini. When it came out in 2005, I installed it on my phone just to see what it was all about, and I was totally blown away at how well it worked.
The basic principle is this: You want to visit a web site, so you type the URL into Opera Mini’s address bar. Mini sends that URL to a server in some far away country, which then renders the page, strips out all the garbage, compresses the hell out of it, and then spits it back down to your phone.
Mini made surfing the internet on GPRS easy, and it made me want to buy a smartphone, not for the 3G, but for the larger screen! I started blogging about my new phone (Nokia E61) as a hobby, and here I am now.
This is 2013, and people living in Western countries don’t really need Opera Mini thanks to high speed wireless networks and subsidized phones that have no problem rendering heavy websites. But there’s still a sizable amount of population living in countries where EDGE is considered blistering fast.
Which finally brings us to today’s news: A developer by the name of François Beaufort noticed that the latest nightly build of Chromium includes support for a compression service. Here’s Google’s description of the feature, straight from the source code:
“Reduce data consumption by loading web pages via Google proxy servers.”
That’s an incredibly easy statement to interpret, Google is basically going to copy Opera Mini. Why is this feature showing up in Chromium first is something I don’t quite understand, but at the same time I acknowledge that I know absolutely nothing about how Google works internally.
When will this feature get formally announced? I’m hoping Google I/O, but that’s just a guess.