Tech developers have searched for more and more ways to speed up the web for last 30 years. Dial-up connections gave way to cable internet service. Bulky browsers like Internet Explorer gave way to slimmer software like Google Chrome. Cutting edge Pentium processors are now considered entry-level as speedier options make their way into our homes and offices.
From cars to computers, humans seem to have an inherent need for speed. Consumer demand undoubtly played a major role in driving faster web technology. But one major player gave the entire online world an ultimatum. In 2010, Google officially added page site speed as a ranking factor in search results. For the last 10 years, the e-commerce world has been squarely focused on developing faster-performing websites and cloud operations.
Today, we download huge files onto our mobile devices with relative ease. At the speeds that were unthinkable even a few years ago. But ss websites now load in the blink of an eye, is there even a need to make things faster? The answer, of course, is yes.
Several promising technologies are at the forefront of speeding up the web. New means of storing, coding, and distributing data, along with more efficient internet protocols, are among the most notable new technologies already playing a part today.
Telcos and cable operators have used fiber-optic connections to some degree for many years. As demand for speed increases, so does the ratio of fiber optic line to traditional copper cable in our local systems. Fiber optics are more expensive, so utility companies have often used the bare minimum distance necessary to stay competitive.
Twenty years ago, cable companies would lay fiber as far as the entry to a neighborhood, then switch to the cheaper copper coaxial cable leading into the homes. Today, that’s changing, starting with commercial buildings. Companies are investing in fiber throughout their facilities, creating the fastest connections possible for each and every user.
All major browsers, including Chrome, have begun integration of the latest incarnation of HyperText Transfer Protocol, HTTP/3. This new protocol uses a combination of innovative technologies to deliver data quickly with increased security. Without bogging you down with too many details, HTTP/3 allows the flow of data to continue. Even if one data packet has an error. This improves on HTTP/2, which interrupts the flow of data delivery if one packet has an issue.
Next-Generation Cloud Hosting
Hosting is a pain point for many websites. Traditional hosting options include shared hosting, VPS, cloud and bare metal. All of these can and do work, and have a role to play. Yet each one of these has trade-offs which can result in performance challenges.
Take shared hosting as an example. This is the lowest cost and easiest to use out of any of the options. Yet you are on a server along with several thousand other websites. If one of those websites experiences a traffic spike then that will almost certainly slow your website down. If that single shared server crashes or goes offline, your website goes with it too.
Matthew Russell, Chief Cloud Officer at Namecheap, brings decades of hosting experience and leads the team that built Namecheap’s next-generation cloud, support EasyWP, it’s managed WordPress hosting service.
Russell explained why Namecheap’s approach to cloud hosting is the way of the future. “Webmasters and site owners in a Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 world want to focus on what is important to them. They want to focus on building and growing their websites, attracting larger audiences, increasing visibility,” Russell conveyed. “They do not want to spend hours dealing with ‘hosting hassle’, nor do they want to spend hours fighting fires when servers go offline when noisy neighbors slow the server down. And more and more, they don’t want to navigate the complex world of many cloud options that require significant technical know-how. They want the hosting to be almost invisible, to just work.”
Russell and his team set about building Namecheap’s cloud to bring all of the benefits without any technical complexities, to ‘tame the cloud’ and make it suitable for all webmasters, he explained. “We wanted to bring in Cloud benefits, such as guaranteed site performance, high availability and zero downtime, and the ability to scale up as your site grows without having to spin up new servers, setup complex load balancers, or more.”
Namecheap’s approach was to marry existing data center infrastructure and commodity hardware into a self-built platform, on top of open source technologies. This approach isn’t easy, solving significant technical challenges such as scaling storage while using regular hardware and scaling databases transparently for our users. “We go with a container-first approach, putting each customer in their own container to guarantee the performance, the fast loading, the uptime,” Russell elaborated.
Content Delivery Networks
With a CDN, the assets are pulled from a server closer to the user, so the load time is faster, latency is minimized. And this results in your website visitors experiencing a fast, reliable service, no matter where in the world they’re located.
For those who are unfamiliar, a virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your data between the server and a user’s personal device, meaning only the designated computer with the correct decoder can read that data. Encryption via VPN permits a private connection via a public network. As the need for higher levels of security becomes more mainstream, individual adoption of VPN services continues to rise.
When you add proxy servers and encryption to the mix, load times obviously slow down. Stack rampant throttling by ISPs on top of that, certain types of content stand an even greater chance of slow-down. However, companies that offer VPN service have made great strides in reducing and nearly eliminating latency.
Mo Zadissa, VPN Product Manager at Namecheap, elaborated on how VPN technology has advanced rapidly, even within the last couple of years. “With the increase of network bandwidth and WiFi accessibility came greater risks on privacy concern, and the need for unblocking content censorship on mobile devices,” Zadissa explained.
“Virtual private networks are now available on all possible devices you can imagine, including browsers,” Zadissa noted. “Speed has always remained a challenge because encryption always leads to a drop in internet speed. In 2014 we had SoftEther & Chameleon encryption which were faster than OpenVPN. Wireguard surfaced in 2019 gradually. It is now being widely adopted by having less than 4000 lines of code compared to their protocols that have 400 000 lines of code. This has greatly improved speed for users.”
No doubt, these technologies will join many others in the race toward faster speeds on the web. It’s difficult to predict which will have the greatest impact. As user adoption rates often dictate winners in the tech world. Still, it is safe to assume that in the coming months and years. The web will accelerate, once again, to levels that we now consider impossible.