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A Unique Browser approach to Fast: Opera Turbo

We’ve seen that modern browsers have made great strides to improve efficiency in rendering and javascript performance. But, the differences seem to be less noticeable when the network is stubborn. On a recent trip, I ran into just this problem. During the evening, the hotel’s local Wi-Fi seemed at peak capacity, the DNS servers were sluggish, and just getting connections opened often added a couple seconds. Getting onto common sites like Slashdot seemed to take 30 seconds or more from the overburdened local connection.

This seemed like a golden opportunity to try out one of Opera’s new features: Opera Turbo. The concept is pretty simple. Clicking a button in the bottom right of the browser, and Opera sends its requests through a local “Turbo” server, similar to a proxy server. The turbo server, in turn, automatically tries to cut the bandwidth by down-sampling image files & compressing uncompressed text content. As an added bonus, the browser gets persistent connections directly to the turbo server (which reduces connection lag) and the browser doesn’t have to wait on DNS either.

On a crowded Wi-Fi, this seemed to shave most of those page load times down under 10 seconds. On an office connection, the turbo feature does seem to hurt performance a bit, and adds a couple seconds to many pages. But, this seems easily addressed by simply leaving the turbo feature in “Automatic” mode, so that it turns itself off on faster networks. The feature seems to work well even if your network requires a HTTP proxy server, as Opera simply rewrites the URL to use the host name of their server, allowing the traffic to pass through corporate proxy servers. As the security conscious may expect, this feature does not appear to apply to secure (HTTPS) connections, and sensitive information does not appear to be routed through the turbo server.

So, the next time you find yourself on a stubborn or slow connection, keep Opera in mind. This optimization gives it a chance to get you surfing quickly again, even when the network does not want to cooperate.

-Frank
Engineer at Web Performance

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