Google web accelerator – a mixed blessing

A few days back, I noticed that my PC’s IP address was reported by a website as being 72.14.192.45. That address isn’t in my IP stack, and isn’t my router’s ISP-provided IP address either.

After checking the address out at DNSstuff, I found that address is registered to Google and then I remembered that I’d installed the Google web accelerator. As far as I can see, this is acting as a big proxy server, caching and prefetching my Internet search requests. It claims so far to have speeded up my downloads by 25% but there are some negative points too:

It is possible to stop the web accelerator from caching certain sites, as well as switching it on/off without re-installing – details of this, along with how it all works can be found at the Google web accelerator support page, but to be honest, that’s a pain in the backside – I already have to switch my proxy settings when I jump from my corporate VPN to my home network and don’t want to have to think about another set of proxies. On that basis, I think the web accelerator will be off my PC soon.

As a web site administrator, I’ll also be giving serious thought to implementing a Google web accelerator blocking method (and the update). Rather than blocking IP ranges, I’m more likely to reject x-moz: prefetch requests and, instead of sending back a custom HTTP error page, I’ll probably refer to no web accelerator (unnecessary proxying considered harmful).

To Google’s credit, they have published web accelerator information for webmasters. What’s not clear to me though, is whether or not blocking/ignoring prefetch requests will also prevent Google from crawling my site. I’d rather lose a few bytes to a prefetch than see my page ranking start to slide.

Whilst writing this post, I found that some versions of Firefox also prefetch by default (I’m using Firefox 1.5 and that certainly does). Most websites don’t seem to care about this as they are looking for Google’s web accelerator IP addresses, but any form of prefetch will load unnecessary content over slow links, or hit web servers with unnecessary requests. For details, read more about prefetching or to turn this off in Firefox’s about:config, set network.prefetch.next to false.

2 thoughts on “Google web accelerator – a mixed blessing


  1. Giggling Madly Here – PT Barnum Would Have Been Proud!

    This is a great program for those users who don’t know anything at all regarding how computers and/or the internet actually works, and who just want to experience the “feel good illusion” of (not really) increased speed by having this entirely useless acceleration program on their hard drive.

    I always laugh out loud whenever anyone proudly exclaims: “The program ‘says’ I saved 6.9 hours, so I’m very satisfied!” Big deal; the program could also say: “You’re now twice as good-looking” or perhaps even “Congratulations you’re a millionaire!” Without being able to verify any programs’ “claims” (or better put ‘assertions’); it is just that: A totally unverifiable assertion!

    Still you’ve got to admire Google’s chutzpa here! I’m guessing that it has to be the most hilarious bit of shell-game spyware ever invented by any company in the entire history of computer or Internet use and development.

    Very clever really, when you consider that the trade off is that users “think” they’re getting “increased” internet speed; in exchange for revealing exact the name of every single webpage that you ever visit from the moment that you install Google Web Accelerator until (hopefully) the moment you wise up and remove it.

    After Google Web Accelerator is installed it does absolutely nothing to improve browsing. Also Google Web Accelerator collects copies of web pages, (including prefetched pages that you did not even visit), in the Google Web Accelerator cache on your computer.

    All this does in effect; is collect and store a gazillion MB of temp files every time you use it for a session of surfing. Try using something like CCleaner after running Google Web Accelerator and browsing the internet for a few hours and see the results for yourself!

    And Google gets to know the exact the name of every single webpage that you ever visit for products, news, banking, whatever! This is very valuable information to have; not only does Google know everything you click on, but you get absolutely nothing in return for this info.

    Finally, Google admits on their own support page that any and all passwords, e-mail addresses etc. you enter in a web form (e. g. when purchasing an item online) will be funneled via their systems. If you enter personally identifiable information (such as an email address) onto a form on an unencrypted web page, the sites will send this information through Google.

    Had he lived long enough to see this, P.T. Barnum; the person who coined the phrase: “A Sucker is Born Every Minute” would most certainly consider those who download, install and leave this program on their computers to be suckers indeed!

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