Technology
ScaleUp speeds up loading by limiting the number of images that need to be loaded on the page.
  • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 18:19

If you often waste precious time inflight staring blankly as your browser struggles to load a page, relief may be a quick download away.
A team of US researchers from Northwestern University has developed an extension for the Google Chrome browser that drastically improves web browsing speeds at a height of 30,000 feet.

In tests, the solution called ScaleUp, drew a CNN page four times faster, saving 60 seconds, the researchers said.

One way ScaleUp speeds up loading is by limiting the number of images that need to be loaded on the page.

Using a tool it developed called WiFly, the team tested the internet connection speeds on a number of flights. Despite the premium that travellers pay for the privilege, the results were bad. "Travelers are paying a lot of money and getting modem-like performance," said lead researcher Fabian Bustamante, Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering. 

"Honestly it was a simple observation: If your performance on a web browser is going to be determined by the number of images that need to be loaded on the page, then how do you limit those images," Bustamante said in a statement released by the university.

The answer? As the name indicates, ScaleUp makes everything bigger.

Much like a responsive website adjusts the layout to your desktop or tablet or phone, ScaleUp adapts the content by increasing the size of the images, which pushes content down the page and reduces the number of objects the browser has to handle at any one time. ScaleUp also employs other tricks to speed up the process. "Some websites load a lot of font types, but that takes time," Bustamante said. ScaleUp just drops the font-load request and still makes the page look presentable. You don't see much difference, but it loads faster, the researchers said. ScaleUp also increases the font size a tiny bit, which simplifies the load even further by pushing other objects down the page.