Facebook Joins Hands with Firefox and Chrome to Download Pages Faster

Recently, Facebook revealed that it has worked with engineers of Chrome and Firefox to make the browsers download web pages faster. It has been a couple of years since Facebook took the initiative to collaborate with the teams of Firefox and Chrome to increase browser caching. With this effort, the two browsers have launched features for efficient caches for Facebook and the web.

As per reports by Ben Maurer and Nathan Schloss from Facebook, the static resource requests to the servers have been highly reduced and the page loading time is also improved with help of the changes made.

Many of you might not be aware of what static resource exactly is. It is a file read by the server directly from the disk. The file is served to the browser without any code run for the purpose. There are times when browsers prefer to reuse JavaScript code or logos in various pages which is actually unnecessary, as it downloads them again and again. In order to avoid this, a validator and expiration time is specified by the HTTP servers for each request.

The expiration time informs the browser the time for which it can reuse the response. Following this, the validator enables the web browser to continue reusing the response after the expiration period by checking with the servers. Now this specification resulted in various issues for the web developers like the time at which the expiration is to be set.

If the expiration time is too short, the browsers will check with the servers frequently. On the other hand, with longer expiration time, browsers will display outdated information.

To get over this situation, Facebook has started using a totally new concept – content addressed URLs. This helps its URLs to have quite a long expiration time, almost of an year. AS the URL content does not change, its servers give a 304 not-modified response in case of every conditional request for the static resources.

A 304 response is more beneficial as compared to download of unnecessary code, however, it doesn’t eradicate the browser’s latency of connecting to the server.

Twisting The Browsers

Unfortunately in 2014, Facebook has come across around 60% of static recourse requests that have lead to an unnecessary 304 response and thus, it started looking up to overcome the issue. It was also observed that performances of browsers showed steady differences – 63% of requests from Chrome were found to be conditional, when compared to 14% from Internet Explorer, 13% from Firefox and 22% from Safari.

On working with the engineers of Chrome, the problems were fixed to some extent. It observed a fall of 24% of the conditional requests. Later, the twists brought down the percentage dramatically. While testing, the team found that the 3G mobile users experienced 1.6 seconds faster reloading of the websites.

Not only Chrome, Facebook has also collaborated with Firefox to create a new cache-control header from specific resources. his was to inform the browser that the particular resource is not to be re-validated ever.

The company reported, “Firefox and Chrome’s have eradicated the re-validation requests efficiently to us from latest version of the browsers. It minimizes traffic to the servers, however, increases the loading time for our visitors.”


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