Speeding Up the Web, Again

November 6, 2010

I’ve written here before about some of Google’s efforts to improve the performance of the Web, including the introduction of the SPDY protocol, the proposed new WebM video format, and the company’s proposed installation of very high speed Internet access in selected areas.  Making the Web easier and faster to use is in Google’s interest; the company makes its money selling Internet advertising, and getting more people to use the Web for more hours produces more advertising revenue.

In line with this overall objective, Google has for about a year offered a tool called PageSpeed, an extension for the Firefox browser that enables Web developers to monitor performance of their pages, and get suggestions on how to improve it.  Now, according to an article at Technology Review, Google has introduced a new PageSpeed tool, mod_pagespeed.   This is a module for the open-source Apache Web server, the most common server software, which monitors performance and attempts to optimize page delivery “on the fly”.

Once installed, mod_pagespeed determines ways to optimize a site’s performance on the fly. For example, it will compress images more efficiently and change settings so that more of the pages are stored in a user’s browser cache, so that the same data doesn’t have to be loaded repeatedly.

Google claims that the optimizations can lead to sites that load 2-3 times faster, depending of course on how well-optimized the sites are to being with.

Google is also entering into deals with other companies, such as the Web hosting company GoDaddy and the content delivery network Contendo, to broaden the reach of its technology.  The tool may prove especially attractive to the administrators of smaller sites, who may not have the time or resources to do extensive manual optimization.

Like many of Google’s initiative, the PageSpeed tools are being run as an open source project.  Though Google’s own interest in these projects is fairly clear, I think it is commendable that they are willing to share their work with a wider community; they will, of course, get the benefit of outsiders’ contributions as well.  There is some more information on the project, and a demonstration video, at the Google Code Blog.


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