Google to speed up, host customers’ Web sites

Googlebot illustration by Paul Ford(Credit:
Paul Ford)

Google, banging its make-the-Web-faster drum again, announced a new service today to rewrite and host others’ Web pages so browsers can load them faster.

But this time, the service isn’t free.

The company’s earlier moves in this area haven’t cost a cent, but Google will charge for the new Page Speed Service when it arrives for the masses at some undefined time in the future. In the past Google used the argument that a faster Web leads to more activity and, ultimately, more ad revenue for Google, but with Page Speed Service, Google is going the old-fashioned route of charging money for a services rendered.

“At this time, Page Speed Service is being offered to a limited set of Webmasters free of charge. Pricing will be competitive and details will be made available later,” said engineering manager Ram Ramani in a blog post today. He offered a sign-up form for those interested in trying Page Speed Service.

Google said pages in its tests speed up about 25 percent to 60 percent, but encourages people to try the Page Speed Service themselves to find out.

Here’s how Ramani describes the service:

Page Speed Service is an online service that automatically speeds up loading of your Web pages. To use the service, you need to sign up and point your site’s DNS entry to Google. Page Speed Service fetches content from your servers, rewrites your pages by applying Web performance best practices, and serves them to end users via Google’s servers across the globe. Your users will continue to access your site just as they did before, only with faster load times. Now you don’t have to worry about concatenating CSS, compressing images, caching, gzipping resources, or other Web performance best practices.

Plenty of people host sites and content at Google already–through services such as Blogger, Picasa, Google Sites, App Engine, and Google Apps, for example. The Page Speed Service, though, raises some interesting new wrinkles, and not just for content delivery network companies like Limelight Networks and Akamai that specialize in speeding up the delivery of Web site data.

First of all, it’s hosting custom Web sites, not those already built atop Google services such as BigTable database and the Google File System that already mesh with Google’s global network of data centers.

See also:
• Google updating Chrome for Lion multitouch
• Google launches Instant Pages for faster results
• WebCL: New hardware power for Web apps?

Second, the move offers the possibility that Google could use a range of its own technologies to speed up pages more. With more and more people using its Chrome browser, Google increasingly controls both the content on Web servers and the vessel that receives that content. That means Google increasingly can rewire parts of the Internet even if standards bodies move too slowly or disagree with Google’s suggested improvements.

It even could could help with other problems on the Net, including the difficult transition to IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) or the control of malware that can jump from infected Web sites through a person’s browser onto a computer.

Page Speed Service is the newest of a host of technologies Google is trying to foster in an attempt to reduce the amount of time people spend waiting for Web pages to load. Faster Web pages typically mean people spend more time on the Web. Among other speed-related moves from Google are these:

• The SPDY protocol is designed to make the Web’s Hypertext Transfer Protocol more efficient.

• The Google Public DNS (Domain Name System) for locating Web page addresses sooner.

• The WebP image format is more efficient that JPEG for faster loading times, Google argues.

• The mod_pagespeed extension is designed to optimize Web pages delivered with the widely used Apache Web server software.

• Google’s a search-ad auction algorithm favors faster-loading sites.

A Page Speed API (application programming interface) lets Web developers get specific suggestions of how they can improve their Web pages.

• The Chrome browser has many speed-related features, including the ability to pre-render Web pages before people click on them and speed up encrypted connections.

Clearly, speed matters: the Web is steadily increasing in importance, depth, and breadth, and nobody enjoys waiting online to read news, buy products, or check bank transactions. What’s interesting here is that Google is willing to make its Web performance ideas into a profit center.

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