Another Google presentation, from Google Web performance engineer Steve Soulders, pointed to some of the emerging browser techniques of fetching Web pages even before they are requested by the user.
The idea is that the browser, Soulders explained, should be able to anticipate the next page that its user might want to see, even before the user requests the page.
"You don't know what the user's next step will be, but you could get more clues as to [his or her] intent on the page" they just requested, Soulders said. He then explained several techniques for exploiting this knowledge.
Developers can add the HTML dns-prefetch, pre-fetch and pre-render tags to a page's hyperlinks. Once a page is loaded, such tags can tell the browser to fetch some of the contents of the pages that are linked to in that original page, even before the user requests them.
The dns-pre-fetch tag tells the browser to look up the domain name of the Web page link. The pre-fetch tag tells the browser to grab the entire page, and the pre-render tag calls for the browser to construct the entire page, as if it were displaying the page on a hidden tab.
All three of these tags, when deployed, can shorten the period between requesting a Web page and seeing that Web page.
Soulders warned developers to use such tags wisely, because they can drive up bandwidth and processor usage. But in many cases, such as a log-in page, or for a page of search results, there is a fairly high likelihood that a user will click on one of the links found on the page they've been delivered.
Browser support for these tags varies, but most browser makers seem to be adding support for them in their new and upcoming editions.
Browsers themselves have a number of processes to speed page delivery as well, such as DNS pre-resolve and TCP pre-connect. With DNS pre-resolve the browser can anticipate the domain name of the next site to be visited, through actions such as watching what letters a user starts typing in the navigation bar, or even by routinely fetching the IP addresses of that user's most visited Web sites.
A TCP pre-connect anticipates the user's next move through similar means. It "warms up" connections to sites, Soulders said, by opening ports and setting all the protocols in place for an eventual request.