Content Delivery Networks in the Mobile Web era

Everybody likes their Internet fast. Content delivery services
(Akamai, Limelight and others) speed up the Web significantly,
distributing your media across a global network of caching servers. It’s
very likely that the end user is closer to an Akamai mirror than to the
origin server, so the experience is improved significantly.

akamai_logo_color

Enter the age of mobile web. At Mobify, we believe that every link on
the Web should present an amazing mobile experience
. One way to do
this is by making content management systems mobile-aware. When the CMS
detects a mobile user, it launches an alternate rendering path and
generates new HTML server-side. This new mobile web page is then
presented to the user – for a great example check out WPTouch, the
most popular mobile plugin for WordPress.

The problem is, most content delivery networks don’t bother telling the
origin server about mobile users, serving whatever is cached for the
URL. And why should they? The whole point of CDN cache is reducing the
time it takes to access web content. Plus, when not done properly
server-side mobile rendering can actually be worse than the desktop
website, as this comic illustrates.

So, what to do? Akamai allows limited code execution right on its edge
nodes with EdgeComputing, but this is counterproductive for today’s
agile web companies. Mobify’s Studio service relies on JavaScript to
detect mobile users, redirecting them to the “m-dot” version of the same
URL which is cached separately (see it in action by going to
wired.com or newyorker.com on mobile; both use Akamai). In the
futurewe’re going to see even more mobile rendering shifted into the
browser
, powered by JavaScript and HTML5. This brings the best of both
worlds – responsive client-side apps that can be stored on a CDN for
optimal performance (we use Amazon Cloudfront).

In my next post, I’ll try to guess why Matt Mullenweg doesn’t use
WPTouch on his beautiful personal blog and share some of the
things we learned about Drupal 8 from Dries’ DrupalCon keynote. Stay
tuned!

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