Thursday, March 31, 2005

Google goes faster with Firefox

Google is now taking advantage of Firefox's ability to "prefetch" web pages before you request them. So if you're searching for say, "Trinity College Dublin", the top result will have the special tag:
<link rel="prefetch" href="http://www.tcd.ie/">

This causes Firefox (or Mozilla) to download that web page in the background, which can be faster than waiting for it to download after you click on it. It looks like it only applies to the top result and only on certain searches (maybe when they think there's a good chance of you clicking on the top result). The one downside to it right now is that many image rich sites still take a while to load, as prefetching the HTML page doesn't prefetch any images referenced from that page. The Mozilla link prefetching FAQ has more information (although it's a bit old at this stage).

It's configurable on the client, by changing your Firefox preferences and on the web server, by changing how you respond to requests with a specific prefetch HTTP header that is sent only with prefetch requests. For webmasters here's one simple way to prevent prefetch requests from being logged for a given page using PHP.

The Google Blog goes into some details of this change. If Internet Explorer users want to see the Internet with go faster stripes, you can get Firefox here. :)

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