Google’s announcement of their new Page Speed Service was so very expected by me that it nearly didn’t form a blip on my radar screen when it flew by in my streams today!
It’s a sort of combination of Content Delivery Network (“CDN”) and automatic page code optimizer which will allow them to make your webpages more efficient at delivering and resolving in browser windows, and it will allow them to cache your site content on servers deployed around the world so that your content won’t have to travel as far through the network to reach anyone at the moment that it’s requested. It’d be super-cool, except this kind of technology was first invented by AOL! Let me explain.
Quite a number of years ago, AOL got sued by some of their subscribers for not upholding service representations, and as a result, AOL began to automatically cache images and webpages from across the internet, keeping them in their servers in Reston, Virginia. This helped them to cut one leg off of the circuit for delivering content for their subscribers. As part of their caching process, they’d recompress images, knocking percentages of the images’ filesize off, reducing how much data needed to be transferred. This actually used to cause problems for some types of images, since their compression algorithm had one or two errors in it, causing big honkin’ artifacts to be left unattractively in the image.
(It’s very geeky of me, but I actually remember some of the image processes which would cause the compression errors, because I had to deal with cases at Superpages.com where our artists made ads for clients, and then the client might call us up and scream because the ad looked bad to them. Such calls could be confounding — imagine an irate attorney who pays many tens of thousands of dollars per year calling you up because he sees crap in the ad your team made for him, and when you pull it up on screen, you can’t see any problem! Then imagine trying to explain to him how he’s seeing the error because he’s on AOL, while the people in your company who create the ads are not on AOL… and you and up with an interesting conversation. Don’t EVER do tech support! But, I digress.)
Anyway, Google’s Page Speed service is taking AOL’s idea just a little further, because they’ve married a few of their services together in order to improve the HTML of the pages they’re caching. Some of that automated improvement will be stuff like rewriting the code to specify heights and widths of images, and minifying CSS or JS code. They might even be doing some of that image compression which was so troublesome with AOL’s rehosting of the entire internet.
But, I’m being snarky with the AOL comparisons! I actually think Google’s idea is a very cool one, and it’s one that I had previously predicted. It made sense once Google rolled out the Page Speed diagnostic (which helped webmasters find areas for improving their pages speed) to then roll out something that would cut down on the network travel time between web site servers and the endusers who request webpages.
This service also immitates other CDNs which came previously, such as Akamai and Amazon’s EC2. I’m a big believer in the power of CDNs, since they have long helped sites move content out closer to “the edge” of the network, reducing the time it takes to deliver webpages, images, Flash, videos, etc. I recommended a CDN for Superpages back when I was there, and it helped improve the user-experience for the millions of visitors we had.
Google’s deployment of this service is a great fit for them, since they already have an array of servers located around the globe, which had enabled them to essentially be their own content delivery network. Also, I wonder if Google couldn’t leverage some of their dark fiber to further reinforce their delivery network’s effectiveness.
The open question at the moment is whether integrating with Google’s Page Speed Service will positively influence search rankings. Since Google started using Page Speed measures as a ranking factor (another development we at KeyRelevance had anticipated), and since using their service would speed up a site’s delivery speeds, it’s easy to connect the dots to see that using such a service could provide a website with an immediate advantage for this ranking factor.
So, Google’s retread of a very old AOL idea may not be all that original, but it is cool since it’s a tool that could help optimize your site a little and improve your user experience very quickly.