Frequent readers of this blog will remember when we delved into the hidden menace of webpage bloat,and how, if we don’t work to stop it, ads and design cruft and big corporations will not only make the ‘Net molasses-slow, but also less democratic.
Well, MIT has come up with part of the solution: a mobile system that picks and chooses between the most important pieces of information on a webpage, and loads them in the most efficient way. Called Polaris, it was developed by a team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.
The solution is different from current offerings in that it focuses not on how muchinformation needs to make it onto the screen of your device, but how often your browser goes back and forth ferrying parts of the whole. This includes things like ads:
“‘If it turns out that the ads are very slow, because right now they’re coming super late in the page—which actually happens often, because if I’m CNN and I have an ad, I want it to come later because I don’t care if you see it right away or not—that leads to higher page load times,’ says [project lead Ravi] Netravali. ‘With Polaris, if there are resources available earlier in the page load, and it doesn’t actually interact with other parts of the page, Polaris will say [to the browser] OK, why don’t you get it right now?’”
This means that the most important parts of a webpage – say the opening hours of the shop you’re heading towards – make it first! While stripped-down pages may be trim enough that Polaris doesn’t make a difference, the more bloated sites that the Web is full of really speed up. And Polaris is “browser-agnostic:” the developers are anticipating it can be used everywhere.
I use the future tense because rollout is dependent on something significant: websites will need to start running the add-on on their servers that will catalogue their pages’ information in a way Polaris can “read” and put in order. Keep an eye on the press, as the team presents their paper on Polaris officially at the end of this week. The reactions should roll in – perhaps finally heralding a newer, faster web?