There are so many great and almost magical things that web browsers can do these days that you’d be surprised, nay shocked even, to know that most still uses principles and processes dating back to the 90s. One such feature is the innocent-looking “Reload” function that was designed for problems of that age. While still useful today, the actual implementation hasn’t exactly scaled to the present, predominantly mobile browsing age. That is exactly what Google has attempted to do in its Chrome mobile web browser, making page reloading not only faster but also consume less resources.
You usually reload pages when, perhaps due to bandwidth quality, the final rendered page appears to be broken or when you want to check if there has been an update to the page. Back in the days, both cases can be handled by a generic reload process that ends up with the browser sending multiple network requests, per web page, to different domains in order to validate the web page.
Today, the contexts for reloading remain the same, but the situation has changed drastically. Many people now browse the web through their smartphones where the old way of reloading would incur big costs on data and resources. At least more than what’s necessary. The problem, says Google, is the old reload methods didn’t distinguish between the different contexts for reloading.
What Chrome now does is to make smarter use of cached resources when possible and only validate the main resource of a page. Google admits that is a very minor change but the effects aren’t so minor. They estimate that the new method reduces the number of validation requests by as much as 60%, making pages reload 28% faster. And the sooner the browser finishes reloading a page, the sooner it can stop using data and hardware resources. Small changes for big gains.