INTERNET GIANT Google has launched what it calls Page Speed Service, which enables webmasters to improve their web site loading times by as much as 60 per cent.
The service works by fetching web sites through Google's servers, automatically rewriting them using web performance best practices and then running them back through Google's servers to the end user.
While it sounds like more work is involved, the rewriting can mean hugely decreased loading times thanks to automatically concatenating the CSS, compressing images, caching, and gzipping resources, all of which can be a pain to do manually but help deliver online content much faster.
The importance of fast loading times cannot be emphasised enough. Once upon a time web sites were filled with useless clutter that led to painful periods of twiddling thumbs. Flash web sites were particularly problematic, since they usually had to spend a few minutes loading before anything appeared. Nowadays people are much less willing to sit around if a web site doesn't load quickly enough. Time is precious, and webmasters can easily lose visitors if they ignore page load time problems.
Google said it encountered improvements of between 25 per cent and 60 per cent on many sites in its tests. Google has a handy online test to give people an idea of how much of an improvement they will see when using Page Speed Service. We tested the link for The INQUIRER and were offered a page load time improvement of only 11.9 per cent. Obviously the difference depends on how well optimised a web site is in the first place.
Webmasters interested in Page Speed Service can sign up for free and redirect their DNS entry to Google, where the process will then begin. The offer is presently limited to a small number of webmasters, most likely as a test to ensure everything is working right. After that Google will start charging for the service. Google hasn't revealed prices but promises they will be "competitive".
Google's Page Speed family of products also includes a web browser extension, API, and an Apache module that can automatically rewrite web pages. The Page Speed Service is basically all of these features combined into a single, simple to use package. µ