Saturday, May 7, 2005

Google Web Accelerator: Not so fast...

I gave the new Google Web Accelerator a try the other day without really stopping to think about it. Of my many complaints about computing, slow loading web pages is not at the top of the list. In 1996? Sure, you bet. That 56kbps dial-up connection to Earthlink seemed fast for about an hour, then you got used to watching images dither to your screen, wondering when (if?) you’d ever see the full page load.

But today, I have a DSL connection with T-1 speeds (1.5mbps) at home, and FireFox helps pages load pretty quickly. But like many, I gave the accelerator a whirl. And in the first week, it saved me a whopping 45 seconds.

Then I saw this article from the guys at 37signals, who ran into some issues with users of their new product Backpack. Turns out that (not surprisingly), the accelerator was following links on pages — even if those links were actually commands to the web server.

Read the comments on the 37signals blog — there’s a good back/forth about whether this is really Google’s fault or that of the web designers who make applications with URLs as commands. Think of all those sites you use — like webmail, wikis, blog software, etc. — that have a “sign out” or “logout” link. As it stands today, applications like GWA will pre-fetch those links, which can force the server to log you out, which leave you unable to click any of rest of the links on the page because now, as far as the webserver is concerned, you’ve logged out.

I’ve uninstalled it for now — as I said, I don’t really see slow-loading webpages as high on my list of problems to solve. And nothing beats ActiveWords for saving real time each week, instead of a fraction of a second on a few web pages.

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