MIT Discovers A Way To Help Your Pages Load Faster

MIT develops Polaris, a new web page loading technique to speed up your website.
It has been said that anyone attempting to view a page will click away if it has not loaded within three seconds. This creates situations where website administrators are in a constant battle with web page bloat. Many work on compressing data to squeeze every millisecond possible out of their page speed, while others look for help from their web host.
Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have developed a solution to slow-loading pages. The project is called Polaris, which researchers claim can cut loading times by up to 34%. The technique focuses on connections, or dependencies, between web page elements in an attempt to map the most efficient order of loading for interdependent objects.  
The CSAIL lab isn’t the first to attempt to develop “dependency-tracking”, but researchers claim that they have discovered a way to accomplish these connections on a smaller scale rather than through HTML tags that can miss some important connections between objects. PhD student Ravi Netravali explains that prior tools were created with current web browsers in mind, but that their findings have dug deeper into what are called “finer granularity”.
Netravali wrote in a paper about his project that Polaris “is track, at a finer granularity, how these objects interact. So is one object writing some data that another then reads? Ok well then it’s a dependency. But if they’re totally doing separate things, and they don’t have any shared state, then you should be able to fetch them and handle them in parallel because they don’t depend on one another.”
Many have asked why this solution hasn’t been identified before. Netravali explains that the push comes from mobile computing. When users are searching for a page on a smaller screen, the wait time is extended and magnified. Previously, developers have been focused on optimization, but since Google’s shift to optimization requirement, developers have found bigger fish to fry.
Netravali writes, “When people are primarily browsing on their desktop the cost of going to a server is much lower. On a cell network these times, these magnitudes are quite high — and with the median we’re saving over a second. There’s tonnes of studies in recent years that basically say, from a content provider’s perspective, every millisecond or tens of milliseconds of increases in page load time leads to significant losses in revenue and user-base, of course.”
According to the MIT press release, “Polaris is particularly suited for larger, more complex sites, which aligns nicely with recent trends of modern pages ballooning to thousands of (Javascript-heavy) objects.” The post also states that mobile connections can also benefit from Polaris because they tend to have larger networks and therefore longer connection times.
Polaris developers tested their product against 200 of the top rated websites and discovered that on average Polaris cut load times by 34%. The most time saved was from larger sites, and MIT suggests that simple websites may not benefit much from their tool. However, if you are interested in working with Polaris, you will have to wait a little while. The team intends to release the software open source, but plans to encourage major browsers to adapt it first.

You can find out more information about Polaris through the MIT website.

Once released to the public, users will be able to download the software to their server with the help of a tool called Scout. From there Polaris will work to maximize your website’s fine connections to get your site to the screen in less time. Until Polaris is released to the public, there are a few ways that you can speed up your website, and you can start by reading this blog post and others from the Midphase blog.