John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Google: We’ll Make Your Site Faster, Just Give Us Your Keys [UPDATED]

A new development in Google’s ongoing “Let’s Make the Web Faster” effort. This morning the company rolled out Page Speed Service, a utility designed to improve page-load times on third-party Web sites.

Google promises speed improvements of up to 25 percent and as high as 60 percent, though gaining them requires handing your Webmaster keys over to the company — some of them, anyway. Specifically, using Page Speed Service requires a site’s DNS entry to be pointed at Google, which then fetches pages from that site’s servers, “rewrites [them] by applying Web performance best practices” (whatever that means), and serves them up to end users via Google’s servers.

Perhaps I’m just paranoid, but I find the idea of Google sucking data directly off third-party servers, manipulating it according to some undefined set of standards, and serving it up again from its own servers a bit unsettling. “Web performance best practices” is a pretty broad term. Certainly it could just encompass a group of vanilla adjustments. But it could include something more. And given the company’s penchant for collecting user data — wittingly or unwittingly — I wouldn’t rule out the latter unless Google explicitly defined those best practices in a convincing way (there is some explanation to be found here).

It could be that Google is simply speeding up Web sites the same way Web-performance outfits like CloudFlare do.

And it could be that it’s doing more than that. Unlike CloudFlare, Google is a search engine and advertising broker first. and its standard Terms of Service apply to Page Speed, just as they do the company’s other offerings.

Content license from you
You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services. This license terminates when you choose to delete such content from the Services. You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such content in connection with the provision of those services. You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your content as are necessary to conform and adapt that content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions. You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

UPDATE: OK. Perhaps I really am too paranoid …

Early this morning Google posted more information concerning the specific optimizations Page Speed Service performs and how they work and they seem to be all above board. In addition, a company spokesperson told me Google has no ulterior motives here.

“We don’t use the information collected from serving these websites towards improving search results or targeting advertising to users,” the spokesperson said. “We may, however, use the information collected to improve the quality of Page Speed Service itself, including making pages serve even faster.”

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