File Under: Programming, Web Services

Google’s New Page Speed Service Promises to Speed Up Your Website

Google still wants to make your website load faster. The company started on its web optimization quest with the Page Speed browser extension, then it moved the Page Speed tool online with an API and now Google is offering up the Page Speed Service.

Google’s new Page Speed Service is invite-only at the moment, but if you’d like to request access, head on over to the sign up page and drop your e-mail and URL in the form.

Google’s new Page Speed Service is one part optimization tool and one part content distribution network (CDN). Google essentially grabs your website, caches it and serves it from the company’s extensive network of servers around the world. The best part about Page Speed is its simplicity — all you need to do is point your DNS to Google’s servers. After that Google handles the rest and you don’t need to worry about minifying your JavaScript, compressing images, caching, gzipping, or any other web performance best practices.

For your site’s visitors everything works just as it always has, the page load times are just shorter. At least that’s the theory. In reality, how much the Page Speed Service will speed up your site varies considerably depending on how well optimized your website is to begin with.

The Google Code blog reports that, on average, pages served from Page Speed are between twenty and sixty percent faster. If you’re curious to see how Google’s Page Speed service stacks up against your current setup, you can compare load times through WebPageTest. I ran my site through the test and the Google optimized version was roughly 40 percent faster, though judging by the screenshots it didn’t quite render properly.

The rendering problems may have been WebPageTest’s fault, though the Page Speed Service documentation seems to indicate that not every page is going to render properly. The Page Speed Service offers a tool to blacklist any specific pages you don’t want Page Speed to serve up because it doesn’t render them properly.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, while a 40 percent speed boost did shave over half a second off my site’s page load times, most of the performance gain came from Page Speed’s heavily cached CDN. If your site is already well-optimized, but lacks a (somewhat expensive) CDN, Google Page Speed isn’t going to help you out any more than existing services like Amazon’s CloudFront or any other CDN.

The Page Speed docs explain some more in-depth methods of testing your website using various browser proxy add-ons so you can perform your own, more thorough speed tests before you commit to using the Page Speed Service.

For now the Page Speed Service is free, but don’t expect that to last. Eventually, when Page Speed opens up to everyone, Google plans to start charging for it. For now the company isn’t committing to actual prices, saying only that Page Speed will be “competitive.” Presumably that means something in the ballpark of Amazon’s S3, CloudFront and similar services.

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