Feb 21, 2007

[Google] Another Look at the Web Accelerator

Given that it was only a few weeks ago that I had finally got broadband internet hooked up here at home (I know, shocking, isn't it?), I decided to give the Google Web Accelerator another shot. The tool aims to increase your surfing speed by prefetching frequently visited pages in the background. I had previously attempted to use the service when I was still on dial-up and I ended up not experiencing any significant change in speed. Of course the FAQ indicates that the service works optimally for broadband connections - go figure.

Now before all you privacy advocates out there get up in arms about the risks of using the tool, the amount of information you give Google and how it really is a form of spyware or something like that, just stop, okay? I think we've heard enough arguments about that and frankly the same arguments apply to just using Google as your primary web search application. I concede that they already amass massive amounts of data about their users.

What I do want to do is just talk about whether or not it really helps.

The theory behind it is sound - depending on how you behave in terms of mouse movements and of course the servers' history of your surfing habits, the tool is designed to speed up frequently visited pages. In reality, I didn't really experience that much of a speed increase, even on a broadband connection. Sure, prefetched pages loaded nearly instantaneously but my entire surfing experience actually slowed a bit since I think Web Accelerator was eating up a lot of extra bandwidth. Heck, it wasn't just taking up the "extra" - it was hedging in on the bandwidth I needed just to check my email.

After about a month of testing and frequent errors about Firefox being unable to access the page I wanted because the proxy server I was using was refusing connections, I decided to delete the tool.

Google LabsDo I recommend it? Unfortunately no, at least not at this time. Technically, it is a Labs product so it's still under development in the same way Google Reader is also a Labs product, so perhaps we're expecting a bit too much. However given how long it's been around and the fact that they feel confident enough to include it on their More Google Products page (under Make Your Computer Work Better) unlike how they've treated somewhat more solid products like Google Notebook, which remains restricted to the Labs page.

They might get it to really work sometime in the future and perhaps they'll even appease the privacy advocates but for now, it's better left on the Google servers.

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