The days of dial-up modems may be gone, but some websites are still surprisingly sluggish. The issue has gained urgency after Google recently introduced a change to its search algorithm that rewards sites that run faster. The search company says that users spend less time interacting with slower sites; adding to the issue are users visiting sites from mobile devices with spotty connections.
Aptimize, a startup based in Wellington, New Zealand, that launches its service in the United States today, says its software can speed up website load times, bringing increases of 200 to 400 percent in some cases. It says it can achieve these improvements entirely in software.
Ed Robinson, cofounder and CEO, says that companies often improve the speed of a website by throwing hardware at the problem. He contends that the fundamental problem is often the structure of the website itself.
To illustrate this point, Robinson talks about the way a website is loaded. When a user enters a URL, the browser has to carry out a series of tasks to load the page. First, it looks up the server it needs to visit, and then it contacts that server and retrieves the code that describes how the page should look. The browser has to follow the instructions in this code, often contacting the server several more times in order to load resources such as ads or images.
Robinson says that those round-trips to collect resources are a major culprit for slowing down websites. Even over a fast connection with a fast server, these steps take time, and any delays only exacerbate the problem. While it’s possible to design a website in a way that avoids these problems, he says the reality is that many aren’t written that way. Aptimize’s software optimizes for speed without requiring a customer to change anything about how the site is coded, either when it’s installed or in the future.
The software gets into the middle of the page-processing pipeline and makes it more efficient. It combines resources so they only have to be downloaded once. For example, it stitches any images that appear on the page into a mosaic, and sends just one image file to the browser, instructing the browser about how to slice up and display the mosaic.