Researchers at the University of Michigan and MIT have found a way to dramatically speed up the mobile web.
Using “Vroom” software, they optimised the end-to-end interaction between mobile devices and web servers.
The software was tested on 100 popular news and sports websites, with Vroom cutting the median load time on landing pages from 10 seconds to 5 seconds.
“Vroom dramatically improves upon solutions such as proxy servers, which come with security and privacy concerns,” they said.
Why the mobile web is slow
A reason for lag on mobile sites is that the browser must incrementally discover, download, and process close to 100 URLs before the page reveals itself.
“A lot needs to be bound and assembled, especially on sports and news pages with live content and personalised ads,” said the researchers.
This back-and-forth is necessary as the central processing units and the networks of mobile devices are slower than their counterparts on desktops and laptops.
As a result, the mobile device’s CPU sits underutilised while requests and responses are transferred to servers over the cellular network.
Users can rely on proxy servers to accelerate websites, as these essentially act as virtual CPUs – building pages before transferring them to the browser.
Proxy servers compromise security and privacy, however, as they intercept HTTPS content and require access to a user’s cookies.
Vroom’s architecture removes these issues by bundling resources that browsers need to load pages.
When a web server receives a request from a browser, the server informs the browser about other dependent resources it will need to fetch.
Vroom takes a three-pronged approach to accomplishing this.
First, it augments HTTP responses with custom headers in order to push dependent resources.
Vroom then makes web servers capable of identifying what resources and dependency hints make sense for the server to pass on to the browser.
Finally, Vroom coordinates server-side pushes and browser-side fetches in a way that maximises use of a device’s CPU.