Speed Up Your Web : Use Cookie-free Domains for Components

When the browser makes a request for a static image and sends cookies together with the request, the server doesn't have any use for those cookies. So they only create network traffic for no good reason. You should make sure static components are requested with cookie-free requests. Create a subdomain and host all your static components there.

If your domain is www.example.org, you can host your static components on static.example.org. However, if you've already set cookies on the top-level domain example.org as opposed to www.example.org, then all the requests to static.example.org will include those cookies. In this case, you can buy a whole new domain, host your static components there, and keep this domain cookie-free. Yahoo! uses yimg.com, YouTube uses ytimg.com, Amazon uses images-amazon.com and so on.

Another benefit of hosting static components on a cookie-free domain is that some proxies might refuse to cache the components that are requested with cookies. On a related note, if you wonder if you should use example.org or www.example.org for your home page, consider the cookie impact. Omitting www leaves you no choice but to write cookies to *.example.org, so for performance reasons it's best to use the www subdomain and write the cookies to that subdomain.

 
Speed Up Your Web : Reduce Cookie Size

HTTP cookies are used for a variety of reasons such as authentication and personalization. Information about cookies is exchanged in the HTTP headers between web servers and browsers. It's important to keep the size of cookies as low as possible to minimize the impact on the user's response time.

For more information check "When the Cookie Crumbles" by Tenni Theurer and Patty Chi. The take-home of this research:

 

  • Eliminate unnecessary cookies
  • Keep cookie sizes as low as possible to minimize the impact on the user response time
  • Be mindful of setting cookies at the appropriate domain level so other sub-domains are not affected
  • Set an Expires date appropriately. An earlier Expires date or none removes the cookie sooner, improving the user response time
 
Speed Up Your Web : No 404s

HTTP requests are expensive so making an HTTP request and getting a useless response (i.e. 404 Not Found) is totally unnecessary and will slow down the user experience without any benefit.

Some sites have helpful 404s "Did you mean X?", which is great for the user experience but also wastes server resources (like database, etc). Particularly bad is when the link to an external JavaScript is wrong and the result is a 404. First, this download will block parallel downloads. Next the browser may try to parse the 404 response body as if it were JavaScript code, trying to find something usable in it.

 
Speed Up Your Web : Minimize the Number of iframes

Iframes allow an HTML document to be inserted in the parent document. It's important to understand how iframes work so they can be used effectively.

<iframe> pros:

  • Helps with slow third-party content like badges and ads
  • Security sandbox
  • Download scripts in parallel

<iframe> cons:

  • Costly even if blank
  • Blocks page onload
  • Non-semantic
 
Speed Up Your Web : Split Components Across Domains

Splitting components allows you to maximize parallel downloads. Make sure you're using not more than 2-4 domains because of the DNS lookup penalty. For example, you can host your HTML and dynamic content on www.example.org and split static components between static1.example.org and static2.example.org

For more information check "Maximizing Parallel Downloads in the Carpool Lane" by Tenni Theurer and Patty Chi.

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