Last Updated: June 29, 2023
· eallam

Your first SPDY app

Ilya Grigorik gave a great talk recently ostensibly titled HTTP 2.0 For Fun and Profit, even though he actually talks mostly about SPDY, the next generation web protocol developed at Google that the HTTP 2.0 Working Group is using as it's starting point/sandbox for new ideas.

SPDY is a game-changer. It's going to change how web developers deliver content to the browser. No longer will we have to resort to hacks, building concatenated JS and CSS files, splitting up resources into different asset hosts to trick the browser into downloading more assets at once. We are going to have to rethink all of the assumptions we currently are making.

So to get prepared, I built my very first SPDY app using node.js and the spdy module and I'm going to walk you through doing the same thing.

First, here is the node.js app before spdy:

var fs = require('fs');
var http = require('http');

var backbone = fs.readFileSync('backbone.js');
var underscore = fs.readFileSync('underscore.js');
var applicationjs = fs.readFileSync('application.js');
var indexhtml = fs.readFileSync('index.html');

var server = http.createServer(function(request, response) {
  var headers = {}
  var body;
  var status = 200;

    case "/":
      headers['Content-Type'] = 'text/html';
      body = indexhtml
    case "/underscore.js":
      headers['Content-Type'] = 'application/javascript';
      body = underscore;
    case "/backbone.js":
      headers['Content-Type'] = 'application/javascript';
      body = backbone;
    case "/application.js":
      headers['Content-Type'] = 'application/javascript';
      body = applicationjs;
      body = "";
      status = 404;

  headers['Content-Length'] = body.length;

  response.writeHead(status, headers);


server.listen(8080, function(){
  console.log("HTTP 1.1 Server started on 8080");

Here I created an http server using createServer and gave it a request handler callback. Every time a new request hits this server it will invoke the callback, passing in a request and response object. I then write a little code to handle different URLs. I'm serving up four things: an HTML file at the root path, underscore.js, backbone.js, and my application.js. Here is the index.html file:

    <title>Boring HTTP 1.1 App</title>
    <script src='/underscore.js' type="text/javascript"></script>
    <script src='/backbone.js' type="text/javascript"></script>
    <script src='/application.js' type="text/javascript"></script>
    <h1>Served with HTTP 1.1</h1>

Now I can start my server with node and go to localhost:8080 in Chrome.


Notice that little grayed-out lightning icon in the Chrome omnibox. That's a little extension called the Chrome SPDY Indicator. Install it and it will light up green whenever you visit site that uses SPDY (go ahead and install it and try it out on or

Our goal is to make that lightning bolt go green.

To do that we first have to npm install spdy to install node-spdy, a great little node module for writing spdy servers. The next part is a little dull but stay with me, we'll get to the good stuff in about 3 minutes. But first, we need to generate a Self-Signed Certificate because SPDY only works over SSL. Luckily, if you are on OS X, it is pretty simple. In your node app, run these commands in your terminal (or just follow along with this tutorial:

spdy-js $ mkdir keys
spdy-js $ openssl genrsa -des3 -out keys/server.orig.key 2048
spdy-js $ openssl rsa -in keys/server.orig.key -out keys/server.key
spdy-js $ openssl req -new -key keys/server.key -out keys/server.csr
spdy-js $ openssl x509 -req -days 365 -in keys/server.csr -signkey keys/server.key -out keys/server.crt

Okay, that wasn't so bad. Now back to our node app. Let's walk through this.

First, we require the spdy module instead of our http module:

var fs = require('fs');
var spdy = require('spdy');

The spdy replaces but still uses the http module for fallback on browsers that don't support SPDY.

Next up we just load our js files and our certificate files we just generated:

var backbone = fs.readFileSync('backbone.js');
var underscore = fs.readFileSync('underscore.js');
var applicationjs = fs.readFileSync('application.js');

var options = {
  key: fs.readFileSync('newkeys/server.key'),
  cert: fs.readFileSync('newkeys/server.crt'),
  ca: fs.readFileSync('newkeys/server.csr')

Now we create a spdy server, passing in our certificate options and a request handler:

var server = spdy.createServer(options, function(request, response) {

Next, we'll talk advantage of an awesome SPDY feature called server push to "push" our asset files to the client along with our HTML response. The client will act like the pushed asset files were already in it's cache, so it doesn't have to make separate requests for our asset files and instead can immediately start interpreting them.

With spdy, all we have to do is call push on the response for each file, like so:

var headers = {
  'content-type': 'application/javascript'

response.push('/backbone.js', headers, function(err, stream){
  if (err) return;

response.push('/underscore.js', headers, function(err, stream){
  if (err) return;

response.push('/application.js', headers, function(err, stream){
  if (err) return;


Now we can finish up by responding with some HTML and using the request.isSpdy property to respond with a happy message of triumph if the client is SPDY capable:

response.writeHead(200, {'content-type': 'text/html'});
  var message = "No SPDY for you!"
  if (request.isSpdy){
    message = "YAY! SPDY Works!"
  response.end("" +
    "<html>" + 
      "<head>" +
        "<title>First SPDY App!</title>" +
        "<script src='/underscore.js'></script>" +
        "<script src='/backbone.js'></script>" +
        "<script src='/application.js'></script>" +
      "<head>" +
      "<body>" +
        "<h1>" + message + "</h1>" +
      "</body>" +

After calling server.listen(8081), we can open up Chrome to https://localhost:8081:


Notice how Chrome reports our assets as being served from the cache. That is server push at work:


You can grab the code for this protiptorial over on github.

7 Responses
Add your response

fantastic guide! this looks awesome, thank you

over 1 year ago ·

Awesome. I get (from cache) quite often from other applications without using SPDY, which I'm going to assume is the work of the browser. In this case, are we leveraging that task to our server instead of to the browser?

over 1 year ago ·

Yea basically, with SPDY you can respond to a request for an HTML resource with not only the HTML, but also other assets the browser needs to render that HTML (css, js, images). That way the browser doesn't have the increased latency involved in opening up extra TCP connections to the server to get those assets.

over 1 year ago ·

thanks for the clear guide. i didn't realise how easy it is to set up a SPDY enabled server

over 1 year ago ·

hey.. do SPDY works with HTTP ?
or always we have to use HTTPS for SPDY ?

over 1 year ago ·


over 1 year ago ·

NGINX is better

over 1 year ago ·