Internet connections get faster but websites get more complex — and that means we often still have to wait an age for pages to load. Now, a new technique from MIT that helps browsers gather files more efficiently could change that.
“As pages increase in complexity, they often require multiple trips that create delays that really add up,” explains Ravi Netravali, one of the researchers, in a press release. “Our approach minimizes the number of round trips so that we can substantially speed up a page’s load-time.” The new system, known as Polaris, was been developed by the University’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
That’s where MIT's Polaris comes in. What it does is log all the dependancies and inter-dependancies on a web page. It compiles all of these into a graph for the page that a browser can use to download page elements more efficiently. The researchers liken it to the work of travelling salesperson:
When you visit one city, you sometimes discover more cities you have to visit before going home. If someone gave you the entire list of cities ahead of time, you could plan the fastest possible route. Without the list, though, you have to discover new cities as you go, which results in unnecessary zig-zagging between far-away cities...
For a web browser, loading all of a page’s objects is like visiting all of the cities. Polaris effectively gives you a list of all the cities before your trip actually begins.
The team’s tested the the system on 200 different websites, including ESPN, Weather.com, and Wikipedia. On average, it was able to load web pages 34 per cent faster than a standard browser. The work will be presented later this week at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.
But the long-term hope of the researchers is that it becomes integrated into the browsers we all use, where it could “enable additional optimisations that can further accelerate page loads”. We can’t wait.