Slow-loading webpages are a modern-day annoyance, but researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Harvard have unveiled a plan to nip the issue in the bud.
The program, known as Polaris, decreases the time it takes for a webpage to load by 34 percent.
The Polaris team includes graduate student Ameesh Goyal and professor Hari Balakrishnan, as well as Harvard professor James Mickens, who started project while he was a visiting professor at MIT in 2014.
On the project’s website, the team said that users often blame bandwidth for slow page loading, but often, it has nothing to do with bandwidth at all. In order to load a page, browsers have to “fetch” objects such as images, source code and HTML files before adding the content to what the user sees. The complication lies in the browser’s need to sometimes fetch and evaluate additional objects, called “dependencies.”
Polaris cuts into this process by tracking the interactions and creating a “dependency graph” for the page.
To better understand Polaris in action, Mickens suggested the analogy of a travelling businessperson visiting city upon city without a list of each stop. “If someone gave you the entire list of cities ahead of time, you could plan the fastest possible route. Without the list, though, you have to discover new cities as you go, which results in unnecessary zig-zagging between far-away cities,” wrote the team.
“For a web browser, loading all of a page’s objects is like visiting all of the cities,” said Mickens. “Polaris effectively gives you a list of all the cities before your trip actually begins. It’s what allows the browser to load a webpage more quickly.”