Mozilla, getting faster?

Currently Mozilla is pretty damn fast rendering web pages. However, a new check in made to the Mozilla 1.2 branch (and by default into the Phoenix branch) seems like it will make things even faster.

It's called Link Pre-Fetching. Which is:

Link prefetching is a browser mechanism, which utilizes browser idle time to download or prefetch documents that the user might visit in the near future. A web page provides a set of prefetching hints to the browser, and after the browser is finished loading the page, it begins silently prefetching specified documents and stores them in its cache. When the user visits one of the prefetched documents, it can be served up quickly out of the browser's cache.
» posted by jeffp on October 17, 2002 at 12:02 AM


I think it's a feature one should be able to turn off. Maybe I need my small bandwith for something else...

# posted by rw

Hmm... this could have an interesting affect on web site statistics. The number of pages seen as loaded by Mozilla would skyrocket as mozilla went around pre-fetching pages that the user never actually surfed to.

# posted by Simon Willison

Nope, I misunderstood the feature. Prefetching only happens if the web page in question specifically "hints" that the browser should prefetch things using a element. That's pretty clever - site owners that don't know about prefetching won't complain about it stealing their bandwidth / breaking their stats while site owners who want it can turn it on with a bit of extra HTML.

# posted by Simon Willison

"... if the web page in question specifically "hints" that the browser should prefetch things using a element."

Not quite - it just has to claim that a page is the next page from the current one. For example, the HTML specification will benefit from this feature.

# posted by Matthew Wilson

Oops, my mistake: either a "prefetch" or a "next" hint will work.

# posted by Matthew Wilson

As cool as 'pre-fetching' might sound it is too easy for web sites to abuse the settings. Perhaps if you could specify which sites can pre-fetch (Somewhat like the pop-up blocking in Phonenix) then it would make more sense. Just think of the denail of service attack you could launch if your page was posted on Slashdot for example. I'll be turning my 'pre'fetch' off for now.

# posted by CamW

pre-fetching can be disabled by adding

user_pref("network.prefetch-next", false);

to your prefs

# posted by pinder

I suspect no one bothers/will bother to code in the necessary HTML code specifying that pages should be pre-fetched.

Does IE support this? If not, I doubt any one would could this in :) Sad to say.

# posted by Agagooga

I already use next links, Agagooga, on some pages of my site. Funnily enough the reason I don't like this feature so much is my bandwidth as opposed to server bandwidth. When you only have 100 mb a month, every little bit extra downloaded counts.

# posted by Lach

Definitely sounds like a useful addition. I already use next/previous/up/etc. links in some of my apps. But as these are all CGI apps pre-fetching won't be used, however that's in some ways a good thing because there are occasions where the page served up changes from minute-to-minute so prefetching would be fairly pointless.

But for static pages I can definitely see that prefetching would be a good thing, and I'll certainly be looking into ways that I can use it to improve the experience for Mozilla/Phoenix/Gecko users.

# posted by Jimbo

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