Browsing the web with poor connectivity can be a frustrating, slow, and expensive experience. In the increasingly technologically hinged world that we live in, poor net connectivity is a complete no-no for netizens of all ages alike. We need information, and we need it fast. Chrome’s on Android’s Data Saver feature feeds to the need for speedy net connectivity by optimizing web pages automatically, and the Data saver brings down the data usage by up to 90% to help with the situations of data constraints. Therefore, now the loading of web pages becomes twice as fast as before, and even slower networks can have more pages that have finished loading. This paves the way for upgradation from HTTP to HTTPS pages with direct feedback to the developers.
Chrome shows users when a page has been optimized, showing in the URL bar that a Lite version has been put up, and this pop-up indicator further provides access to more information, with an option to load the original version of the pages. However, the Lite pages are disabled on a per-site or per-user basis if Chrome detects that users frequently choose to load the original page.
Lite pages: how do they work?
Lite pages are powered by inbuilt optimizations and Google servers to improve page loading, easing up the user experience considerably. The optimization has region-to-region versatility, i.e., specific optimization techniques according to the region of the user and as per the configuration of the page by the developer. An HTTPS page optimized by Chrome has only the URL shared with Google with the other personalized information, such as login information, remaining encrypted. However, these optimizations are applied in cases of users being troubled by slow loading of data and specifically.
When the network’s effective connection type is “2G” or “slow-2G,” or when Chrome estimates the loading time of the page to exceed 5 seconds to reach the first contentful paint within the given network conditions and device functionalities. This criterion is applied equally to all pages, and a very small percentage of page loads are affected by this, except for the slowest sites.
Developers and Lite Pages
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The developers wanting to test-run the new feature can try the Lite pages on Chrome for Android by enabling Data Saver from the settings menu and loading a page on a very slow network to verify if the optimization holds good in practice. For the users of a faster network, one has to set #force-effective-connection-type to any 2G option at chrome://flags. If the users opt out of the web page, it would automatically disable the features, so to prevent that, one has to enable #ignore-previews-blocklist. Developers can know when and why Lite pages are being shown via Chrome 72. Through it, the developers can apply intervention reports with the Reporting API feature that specifies when these optimizations are used.
The heads-up word for the developers is that since Lite pages are only brought up for very slow-loading sites, they are urged to gauge how well their pages are currently performing over slow networks. Some of the several tools to evaluate and improve a web page’s performance are:
- Lighthouse (part of Chrome DevTools): it audits quality and performance.
- PageSpeed Insights (part of the Chrome UX Report): it indicates performance and suggests optimizations accordingly.
- WebPageTest evaluates performance on a real device under various conditions to ascertain the web page efficiency. Furthermore, web.dev helps developers to learn about best practices for building fast and smooth web experiences.
The option to disable the feature on a site is kept open to the choice of the user. To this end,
if the original page’s main HTML response has the ‘no-transform’ directive in the ‘cache-control’ header, the Lite Page will not be triggered, so the developers using this option are advised to file a bug to do away with the need to opt out of the feature.
Surfing the net without having to pull up the patience for the complete loading of web pages is the way forward in web technology, and the Chrome Lite Pages feature aces the first step towards it.