Mobile Browsers Help Users Avoid Bloated Webpages
Websites are getting fatter, dramatically fatter, with the average page size of sites tracked by the HTTPArchive now nearly 1.3 MB. If the current rate of page size increase continues, that number will reach 2MB sometime early next year.
That’s bad for pretty much everyone, but doubly so for mobile users with constrained bandwidth.
Fortunately for mobile users, the network increasingly seems to see large page sizes as damage to route around.
Services like Instapaper, Pocket or Safari’s Reader have long offered an easy way to strip out extraneous content. Now mobile web browsers are increasingly taking it upon themselves to speed up the bloated web.
The recently unveiled WebKit-based Opera Mobile borrows Opera Mini’s proxy-based Turbo Mode, or “Off Road” mode as it’s known now. Once only deemed necessary for feature phones (Opera Mini’s primary market) proxy-based browsing will soon be available in all Opera browsers.
Google’s Chrome for Android browser is getting ready to follow suit.
The beta channel release of Chrome for Android recently introduced an experimental data compression feature which Google says will “yield substantial bandwidth savings.” Chrome’s compression is nowhere near the level of Opera’s, but it does roughly the same thing — puts a proxy server between the user and the bloated site in question and then applies various speed improvements like using the SPDY protocol and compressing images with WebP.
To turn on the compression head to
chrome:flags and look for the “enable experimental data compression” option.
Here’s Google’s description of the various optimizations:
In other words, Google and Opera are doing what web developers ought to be doing but aren’t. Just like developers should have been making reader-friendly pages, but weren’t, so “reader” modes were born.
It works too. In the video embedded below Google’s Pete Le Page shows how Chrome’s new proxy options take a page from The Verge and reduce it from a husky 1.9MB to a still fat, but somewhat better 1.2MB.
Want to make sure the internet doesn’t see your site as damage it needs to route around? Check out developer Brad Frost’s article Prioritizing Performance in Responsive Design, which has a ton of great advice and links, including what I think is the most important thing developers can do: Treat Performance As Design. In other words, if your site isn’t svelte and fast, it’s not well designed no matter how pretty it might look.
[Note: It is not ironic to post about web page bloat on a page that is, arguably, pretty bloated.]