New Code Could Make Websites Load 34 Percent Faster

March 10, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

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Yes please!

If you’ve ever sat patiently — or less patiently — by your computer waiting for a webpage to load, you know the struggles that come with a slow computer, browser or internet connection. As computer technology improves, this waiting time continues to decrease. I’m sure some of you remember using the Internet back in the late 90s or earlier — it was very slow!

Now, a new piece of code called Polaris — like the North Star — claims to be able to speed up web pages by 34 percent in any browser.

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If you don’t know how web pages work, here’s a quick introduction. In order to load pages, your browser (Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) has to read the URL you enter and fetch “objects” such as HTML files, JavaScript code and images to know what the page should look like. However, each object may be connected to other objects and these relationships are known as “dependencies.” Since your browser can’t see all the dependencies immediately, it often has to make multiple trips in order to be able to load the full page.

“As pages increase in complexity, they often require multiple trips that create delays that really add up. Our approach minimizes the number of round trips so that we can substantially speed up a page’s load-time,” says PhD student Ravi Netravali, who is first author on a paper about Polaris in a press release from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Polaris tracks interactions between objects and creates “dependency graphs.”

“We are hopeful that the system will eventually be integrated into the browser,” Netravali says in the press release. “Doing so will enable additional optimizations that can further accelerate page loads.”

According to Gizmondo, the code was tested for 200 websites such as ESPN, and Wikipedia. On average, pages loaded 34 percent faster than they had previously.

While this may not be particularly important for a personal page like a blog, it can make a big difference for commercial sites with high levels of traffic. According to the press release, every 100-millisecond delay on Amazon’s site cuts their profits by 1 percent.

Polaris isn’t code that you can download and use yourself; you will just have to wait until your favorite websites begin using it. The researchers also hope that it will someday be integrated into browsers for even speedier page loading. With any luck, it won’t be long before that happens!

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