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When we think about fast our internet is, we tend to think about one facet of it: the speed of the connection. How fat is your pipe? How much data can it slurp down? Make it bigger, make it faster. But there’s another, different way to go about making the internet faster. Make everything on it smaller.
The newest tool in the data-squishing toolbox is Google’s Brotli algorithm. Officially unveiled and released to the world at large today, it’s the successor to a different compression algorithm called Zopfli, which Google published in 2013. (Both named after Swiss bakery products because of course). And it stands to squish data on the internet by nearly a quarter.
While they’re both pretty recent developments, both algorithms share a lineage that’s ancient by internet standards. Zopfli is built on the same wide-spread algorithm that’s used when you make .ZIP files. And that algorithm, in turn, leans on two older ones that date way back to the late 70s and theearly 50s. It’s a chain of improvements that’s been building for over half a century, since before the internet even existed. Nuts, right?