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By 30 May 2012 | Categories: news

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Microblogging site Twitter has announced some improvements to the site, aimed at enhancing the twitter.com experience for its users.

These improvements include moving the rendering of pages to the server, resulting in a boost in initial page loading times to one fifth of what they were previously, as well as a reduction in performance differences across various browser versions.

Twitter stated that permalink URLs are now simpler in that these no longer make use of the hashbang (#!), in order to facilitate faster initial page-loading times.

“time to first tweet” slashed

In addition to the hashbang being dropped, the company also added instrumentation to identify which categories of users it “could serve better.” The main measurement employed in order to determine this was “time to first tweet”.

According to Twitter, time to first tweet is a measurement that it took from a sample of users, and looks at the amount of time it takes these users to go from navigation (clicking on the twitter.com link), to viewing the first tweet on each page’s timeline. The firm used this metric to get an idea of how quick twitter.com “feels”.

When the company investigated each component of this measurement it discovered that the page loads were considerably slower for users who don’t have a high specification PC, or those that utilise outdated browsers.

“The bottom line is that a client-side architecture leads to slower performance because most of the code is being executed on our user’s machines rather than our own,” a blog post by Dan Webb, engineering manager for Twitter’s web core team read.  

Webb went on to explain that Twitter took the execution of JavaScript completely out of the website’s render path, by rendering page content on the server and deferring all JavaScript execution until after that content has been rendered.

 
By doing so, the company managed to lower the amount of time it takes to first tweet to around a fifth of what it used to be. Twitter also minimised the amount of JavaScript it used for the site, so that this executes quicker. This ensures that users only download the JavaScript necessary for the page to work properly.  

Twitter said that it is currently working on rolling out this new architecture across the site and that when this is done, the company will look at further measures to improve performance.

In related news, Twitter revealed the details behind its draft Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA) last month, via which the social networking site promises to keep control of its patents in the hands of engineers and designers.

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