Google today took the wraps off a new experimental protocol called Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC) and added it to Chrome Canary, the latest version of its browser. QUIC includes a variety of new features, but the main point is that it runs a stream multiplexing protocol on top of UDP instead of TCP.

Google says it has been working on both a QUIC client implementation and prototype server implementation for the past few months. While early tests of UDP connectivity have been promising, the company says it has learned from past experience “that real-world network conditions often differ considerably.”

As such, Google is looking to test the pros and cons of the QUIC design in the real world by experimenting with it for a small percentage of Chrome canary and dev channel traffic to some Google servers. “Users shouldn’t notice any difference–except hopefully a faster load time,” the company says.

Here are the QUIC highlights Google wants to emphasize right now:

  • High security similar to TLS.
  • Fast (often 0-RTT) connectivity similar to TLS Snapstart combined with TCP Fast Open.
  • Packet pacing to reduce packet loss.
  • Packet error correction to reduce retransmission latency.
  • UDP transport to avoid TCP head-of-line blocking.
  • A connection identifier to reduce reconnections for mobile clients.
  • A pluggable congestion control mechanism.

In other words, QUIC is yet another protocol that Google is building to help speed up the Web. It has already done so notably with its SPDY protocol, which is now the foundation of the upcoming HTTP 2.0 protocol.

Here’s the company’s thinking on why it’s not satisfied stopping just at SPDY:

However, despite increasing bandwidth, round trip time (RTT)–which is ultimately bounded by the speed of light–is not decreasing, and will remain high on mobile networks for the foreseeable future. To continue improving network performance we need to decrease the number of round trips, something that is difficult with protocols that currently rely on the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

QUIC was actually first spotted by Google evangelist François Beaufort back in February. At the time, however, it was only available in Chromium, the open source Web browser project that shares much of the same code as Google Chrome, and hadn’t officially been announced.

Google meanwhile describes Canary as “the most bleeding-edge official version of Chrome and somewhat of a mix between Chrome dev and the Chromium snapshot builds.” If QUIC has made it into Canary and will soon be appearing in Chrome’s dev channel, it’s fair to say it will one day make it into the beta channel and then eventually the stable channel.

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