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Chrome could preload pages for 'wicked-fast' Web

Programming work has begun to load Web pages before a Chrome user actually clicks on them.

Google has begun work on a feature to let Chrome load pages before they're needed, the latest instance of the company's relentless focus on Web performance.

The work, described briefly in the Chrome issue tracker, said the project to "pre-load pages in background tabs for 'wicked fast' page loads" is scheduled to arrive in the browser's code base in February. The very early stages of work has begun: support for an eventual option to enable testing the feature through Chrome's "about:flags" interface.

With Chrome's tabbed browsing interface, multiple pages can be loaded into separate memory compartments simultaneously. A background tab, presumably, is one that's in use but hidden from the user interface. When a person clicks on a preloaded Web page, the browser could simply activate the page rather than load it.

One tricky part of the technology is of course deciding which pages, or fractions of pages, to preload and when to purge unread pages from memory. Some Web pages have dozens of links, and some browser users have dozens of active tabs open.

Another complication: artificial inflation of page-view statistics on the Web. Analytics tools will have to be able to distinguish between a "real" page view and a preload. A related analytics complication is registering when a preloaded page is activated. Apple Safari's 3D interface for showing a thumbnail array of recently used Web pages brought similar complications.

Through a process called DNS prefetching, Chrome already tackles some potentially slow networking chores before Web pages are clicked. And Google has many other fast-Web projects under way, including a technology called False Start to speed encrypted Web pages, rewiring Web server communications with the SPDY protocol, support for the WebP image format as an alternative to JPEG, and switching to the libjpeg-turbo library for when JPEG images need to be drawn.