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7/28/2011
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Google Declares War On Slow Web Pages

In its ongoing quest to make Web apps as fast as desktop software, Google Page Speed Service accelerates Web page load times.

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Google has made speed its watchword because it's a Web company and Web services still have trouble keeping up with software that runs locally. To make the Web experience better, Google and its Web peers like Mozilla have been tuning their JavaScript engines over the past few years and pursuing speed gains anywhere they can be found. The search giant has also pushed for faster Internet connectivity, through lobbying and ultra-fast broadband tests in a few communities. Its goal is to make Web page load times cease to be noticeable.

We're not there yet. Web page bloat is still a problem. Unpredictable network conditions continue to be a fact of life online, particularly on mobile networks, so it's still advisable to optimize Web pages for rapid loading.

Two years ago, Google released a browser extension called Page Speed to help Web developers and publisher evaluate Web page performance. It performs tests on Web pages to identify potential slowdowns. With leaner Web pages, site owners can expect happier users and better engagement, or so the theory goes.

Google's speed obsession remains ongoing. Last year, the company released an Apache module called mod_pagespeed that rewrites the Web pages it serves to load faster. This year, Page Speed was offered as an API, so that developers could integrate performance analysis testing into their workflows.

The most recent manifestation of Google's fixation on speed is the Page Speed Service, an online service that accelerates web page load times.

"To use the service, you need to sign up and point your site's DNS entry to Google," said Google engineering manager Ram Ramani in a blog post. "Page Speed Service fetches content from your servers, rewrites your pages by applying Web performance best practices, and serves them to end users via Google's servers across the globe. Your users will continue to access your site just as they did before, only with faster load times."

According to Ramani, Google has seen speed improvements ranging from 25% to 60%.

Initially, Page Speed Service is being offered to a limited set of website owners at no charge. However, it will be a fee-based service when it's made widely available later this year. Those interested in access can request admission through a Google Web form.

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