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We’re often hard-pressed to find anyone who believes that web pages load too quickly – there’s always seconds to be saved. Pages tend to creak under the weight of complex elements and ads, which has led to an ad blocking boom, new speed-reading resources from Google and Facebook, and now, a system from MIT that its creators claim can trims page load times by up to 34%.

Polaris, as its creators call it, is a product of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). Whilst its benefits tend to vary, as they’re based on the site deploying it, there’s no comparable technology that’s as effective as it is universal. The only catch? Figuring out how to deploy it to the websites and browsers we use every day.

The breakthrough came after the lab began to focus primarily on mobile.

To understand how and why Polaris works, it’s important to remember that a web page doesn’t automatically appear wholly formed. Every time you type in a URL, the site that materialises comprises a mishmash of JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and more. What’s more, many of these items are interdependent, and your browser can waste precious seconds deciding in which order it should load parts, and why. When downloading one object requires fetching even more objects, that’s known as a dependency.

It’s an inefficient process; the MIT team compares it to figuring out a travel itinerary on the fly, versus having a list of cities ahead of time to help you plan the most practical route. Polaris provides that list, and acts as an agent. It maps all of these dependencies, enabling objects to download in a streamlined fashion – cutting back on the number of times the browser has to cross a mobile network to fetch more data.

However, it’s not a definitive cure for the entire web. For a relatively austere site like Apple’s homepage, made up primarily of images that don’t depend on one another, Polaris doesn’t show substantive gains next to using Firefox. Then again, sites like Apple’s tend to load quickly to begin with. It’s when destinations get more feature-filled that Polaris really kicks in.

Whilst it’s not the first dependency system, it is the first one to be browser agnostic. That means it could hypothetically work on any site, in any browser, across multiple software updates. The question now is, will it?

For more information about Polaris, click here.

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