Twitter kills the hashbang, promises 5x faster page loads

Twitter hashbang speed optimization

Twitter is about to get a whole lot faster. The microblogging giant announced Tuesday that it is restructuring the way it renders Twitter on the Web to allow for speeds up to five times faster than the previous iteration allowed. As part of this plan, Twitter is killing the “hashbang” (#!) URL, and making other changes to “optimize for speed.”

With the launch of “New Twitter” back in September 2010, Twitter used a Web app structure to build the Twitter.com user interface. By doing this, Twitter utilized the JavaScript running on each user’s Web browser to load the UI. Now, Twitter will start loading its website interface using its own servers, which has a variety of benefits for both users and Twitter, including faster load times, a more cohesive user experience across different browsers, and the ability to roll out new features more quickly.

“To improve the twitter.com experience for everyone, we’ve been working to take back control of our front-end performance by moving the rendering to the server,” writes Dan Webb, Twitter’s engineering manager, in a company blog post. “This has allowed us to drop our initial page load times to 1/5th of what they were previously and reduce differences in performance across browsers.”

In addition, Twitter is gradually doing away with hashbang URLs, which required a bit of a technological runaround to work. The company has started with tweet permalinks (like this), and will eventually kill the hashbang structure altogether. For example, my Twitter profile link is currently: twitter.com/#!/andrewcouts. Soon, it will just be twitter.com/andrewcouts. (You can of course type in the latter and it will work, but that’s simply a redirect to the hashbang URL).

Furthermore, Twitter will do away with other parts of its JavaScript-heavy process to reduce the “time to first tweet,” meaning you won’t have to wait nearly as long to post your 140-character musings. Lastly, Twitter will begin to be more selective about what aspects of the UI it loads, down to “only what we need” on a specific page. This, too, will help reduce “time to first tweet,” and allow for faster page loads.

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