How did a social media company with no experience in the browser technology space help Google Chrome make its pages refresh 28% faster? The answer to that intriguing question lies in the way Chrome works, and how Facebook offered a “fix” that helped both Chrome and Firefox get noticeably faster.
The change actually happened in the previous version of Google Chrome, namely Chrome 54. With that iteration, Google made a change in the way a page reloads, based on Facebook’s suggestion.
What happens is, when you refresh a browser page, the browser revalidates all the page’s elements before serving it to you fully updated. Facebook has been working with browser vendors to improve what is called browser caching. That’s the stuff your browser “remembers” about a previously visited web page in order to help it load faster when you go there a second time.
Technically, when you refresh a browser page, it is counted as the next visit to that page. What Facebook did was to suggest that Chrome and Firefox only revalidate the main resource, or the page itself, rather than images, scripts and other resources.
That helped Google Chrome get 28% faster on page refreshes with version 54, and that was carried over to the current Chrome 55 and will eventually make its way to Chrome 56, which we should be able to update to at the end of this month.
The 28% improvement in refresh speed comes from the fact that only 60% of the validations are now done for each page. The impact is felt much more on mobile devices because the new method of revalidation uses less data, less CPU resources and less battery power.
Here’s a very short video that shows the difference in refresh speeds on Google Chrome before and after the change was implemented:
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