Google wants to make the Web faster. As well as optimizing its own sites and services to run at blazing speed, the company has been helping to streamline the rest of the Web, too. Now Google has released free software that could make many sites load twice as fast.
The software, called mod_pagespeed, can be installed and configured on Apache Web servers, the most commonly used software for running websites. 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. The software will be automatically updated, notes Richard Rabbat, product manager for the new project. He says that this means that as Google and others make improvements, people who install it will benefit without having to make any changes.
“We think making the whole Web faster is critical to Google’s success,” says Rabbat. Making the Web faster should encourage people to use it more and increase the likelihood that they will use Google’s services and software. Rabbat points to the frustration that people feel when they click a link or type a URL and see a blank page for several seconds. “In many cases,” he says, “I’ll navigate away when that happens.”
Google already offers a tool called Page Speed that measures the speed at which a website loads and suggests ways to make improvements. “We asked ourselves, instead of just telling people what the problems are, can we just fix it for them automatically?” Rabbat says.
The software could be particularly useful to operators of small websites. Such people may not have the skill or time to optimize their site’s performance themselves. It should also be useful for companies that use content management systems to operate their websites and lack the technical capabilities needed to make speed improvements to Web server software themselves.
Google tested mod_pagespeed on a representative sample of websites and found that it made some sites load three times faster, depending on how much optimization had already been done.
Google is also making deals with other companies to ensure that mod_pagespeed is widely distributed. Hosting company GoDaddy, for example, plans to add the software to its Web hosting products. According to GoDaddy’s president and chief operating officer, Warren Adelman, the software will offer a way to “make it easier for our Web hosting customers to build the best website possible with the least amount of effort.” Google’s Page Speed tool, he notes, “required a certain degree of technical savvy for website operators to implement,” and he expects the new tool to have a broader impact.