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Please explain purpose of GZIP

I support a C# .NET website which prepares the request thusly:

        public GzipWebRequest(WebRequest wrappedRequest, bool compressRequest, bool acceptCompressedResponse)
        {
            this.wr = wrappedRequest;
            this.gzipRequest = compressRequest;
            if(this.gzipRequest)
                wr.Headers["Content-Encoding"] = GZIP;
            if(acceptCompressedResponse)
                wr.Headers["Accept-Encoding"] = GZIP;
        }

Please explain what GZIP is doing.

Thanks
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thanks