New MIT-developed system can make webpages load 34 per cent faster in any browser

The 'Polaris' system could help counter the browser-slowing effects of complex webpages

Doug Bolton
Wednesday 09 March 2016 18:47 GMT
Students walk across the MIT campus, where the program was developed
Students walk across the MIT campus, where the program was developed

Computer scientists at the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a system that can reliably make websites load 34 per cent faster.

As internet speeds have increased, websites have got more complex, leaving some pages sluggish and unresponsive. This is a problem for companies like Amazon, who say that for every one-second delay in loading time, their profits are cut by one per cent.

But a team of researchers, working at the university's Computer Science and Artifical Intelligence Laboratory, may have found the solution.

Named Polaris, the system cuts load-times by determining the best way to 'overlap' the downloading of different parts of a webpage.

When you visit a new page, your browser reaches across the internet to fetch 'objects' like pictures, videos, and HTML files. The browser then evaluates the objects and puts them on the page.

However, some objects are dependent on others, and browsers can't see all of these dependencies until they come across them.

Polaris works by tracking all of these relationships and dependencies between objects on the page and turning the information into a 'dependency graph' that can be interpreted by your browser.

Polaris essentially gives the browser a roadmap of the page, with all the details of the best and quickest way to load it.

PhD sudent Ravi Netravali, who worked on Polaris, explained: "It can take up to 100 milliseconds each time a browser has to cross a mobile network to fetch a piece of data."

"As pages increase in complexity, they often require multiple trips that create delays that really add up. Our approach minimises the number of round trips so that we can substantially speed up a page's load-time."

The researchers tested Polaris across a range of network conditions on some of the world's most popular websites, and found it made them load an average of 34 per cent faster when compared to a normal browser.

Polaris could be used on any website and with unmodified browsers, and when tech companies like Google and Amazon are working hard to improve load-times, a similar system might appear on your device soon.

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