Web

Researchers at MIT and Harvard have found a way to drastically speed up Web browsing

tor project new onion service security dark web private browsing
Speeding up the rate at which websites load usually involves switching to a different browser, but the clever folks at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Harvard University have discovered a way to speed up Web browsing regardless of platform. The result of a collaborative study between the two institutions, Polaris, was detailed in a paper published Wednesday. The improvements are dramatic: in tests by researchers involving “a range” of network conditions on more than 200 websites including ESPN.com, NYTimes.com, and Weather.com, Polaris was observed to reduce website page-load times by up to 34 percent.

The system achieves that browsing boost by reducing the number of objects that devices download when they visit a webpage. Normally, navigating to a site like Google.com involves a series of exchanges between a device and the page’s servers. “Objects” such as HTML files, images, JavaScript code, videos, and more are downloaded individually, interpreted by the browser, and then arranged into a human-readable webpage. But complicating matters, each file could potentially require additional files, called dependencies, in order to render properly; a JavaScript code could point to another JavaScript code on a third-party server, for example.

Modern browsers try to mitigate the page-loading impact of dependencies by making “conservative assumptions” about which content to process next using HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the structural code framework that underlies most webpages. But HTML doesn’t always give a good indication of a dependency’s potential impact, leading to increased load times as additional objects download.

Polaris attempts to solve the problem of dependencies by creating a graph of the “interactions between objects” on a webpage. Every reference a script makes to another script, every page variable that’s updated by a third-party routine, and even every nibble of data read by another object is meticulously recorded in a master log that Polaris maintains. The resulting “map” can then be used by browsers to load webpage content more efficiently. Harvard Professor James Mickens, a co-author of the study, likens it to a traveling businessperson. “For a Web browser, loading all of a page’s objects is like visiting all of the cities,” he told MIT News. “Polaris effectively gives you a list of all the cities before your trip actually begins.”

The approach isn’t exactly new — indeed, the authors acknowledge that so-called dependency-trackers have existed before — but Polaris derives much of its efficiency by avoiding the use of HTML in identifying object relationships. And in contrast to the data compression services offered by Google and Opera, the reductions in page load-times enabled by Polaris are more “substantive” and perceptible. “Recent work has shown that slow load-times are more strongly related to network delays than available bandwidth,” MIT professor and paper co-author Hari Balakrishnan told MIT News. “Rather than decreasing the number of transferred bytes, we think that reducing the effect of network delays will lead to the most significant speedups.”

Polaris isn’t a fix-all for slow browsing, but complex sites with a vast number of dependencies stand to particularly benefit. Mobile networks, too, could see improvements: according to an Amazon study, it can take up to 100 milliseconds each time a browser has to download data via a mobile network.

Web

Google Translate updated to reduce gender bias in its translations

Google is changing how Google Translate offers translations. Previously when you entered a word like doctor, Translate would offer a masculine interpretation of the word. Now, Translate will offer both masculine and feminine versions.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Home Theater

Kill your cable and switch to streaming with our painless guide

If you're going to quit cable or satellite for a streaming TV solution, you're going to want to get it right the first time. We've outlined exactly how to get started, step by step. Follow our lead, and you'll never look back.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Computing

Here’s how to install Windows on a Chromebook

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so, just in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only…
Computing

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.
Web

Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.
Web

Can Microsoft’s Airband Initiative close broadband gap for 25M Americans?

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 25 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Of these, more than 19 million are living in rural communities. Can Microsoft help out?
Computing

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.
Computing

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Mobile

5G: Why everything is about to change

Curious about the many ways 5G will change and enrich your life? Here’s our guide to all things 5G.