Being fed up with slow mobile web speed? Researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) and MIT have found a way to dramatically speed up the mobile web: their new Vroom software prototype can optimize the end-to-end interaction between mobile devices and web servers.
They tested the software on 100 popular news and sports websites, and found that Vroom cut in half the median load time on landing pages, from 10 seconds to 5 seconds.
When a user visits a mobile-optimized page, the browser must incrementally discover, download and process close to 100 URLs, the resources that constitute the page, before that page fully reveals itself.
"When a browser begins to load a page, all it knows is the main URL. Everything else, it has to discover on its own through multiple rounds of parsing and executing code to determine all the assets it needs," said Vaspol Ruamviboonsuk, a UM doctoral student in computer science and engineering who led the development of Vroom.
This back-and-forth is necessary because both the central processing units and the networks of mobile devices are much slower than their counterparts of desktop and laptop. As a result, the mobile device's CPU sits idle and underutilized while requests and responses are transferred to servers over the cellular network.
In contrast, Vroom takes a three-pronged approach to accomplishing this: first, it augments HTTP responses with custom headers in order to push dependent resources; second, it makes web servers capable of identifying what resources and dependency hints make sense for the server to pass on to the browser; third, it coordinates server-side pushes and browser-side fetches in a way that maximizes use of the mobile device's CPU.
In general, the new Vroom architecture bundles together resources that browsers will need to fully load pages. When a web server receives a request from a browser, in addition to returning the requested resource, the server also informs the browser about other dependent resources it will need to fetch.
"Vroom dramatically improves upon solutions such as proxy servers, which come with security and privacy concerns, and it complements solutions such as Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages project, which requires web pages to be rewritten," said Harsha Madhyastha, UM associate professor of computer science and engineering and one of Vroom's developers. "For any particular version of a web page, Vroom optimizes the process of loading that page."