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Boiling Fast Internet with Brotli

Written by Mika Epstein

Brotli totally sounds like a kind of pasta or some horrible genetically altered form of broccoli. What it really is, besides meaning “small bread” in Swiss German, is a compression framework to bake a faster Internet.

Google Makes Us Faster

Last year, Google came up with a new kind of way to compress data, while keeping it as fast as the existing methods. We all know that the smaller your content is, the faster it loads. At the same time you have to take into account how long it takes your server to make the content smaller. You also have to consider how long it takes the browser to read those things.

Compression tools like gzip (which is incredibly popular) will make your files smaller before your server sends them over to the visitor. For CSS and plain HTML, this can speed up your site by up to 70 percent, according to these numbers I’ve just made up. Actually those aren’t made up at all. They come from GTmetrix, a company that specializes in helping make your site even faster.

DreamPress includes gzip for you, so you don’t have to mess around with customizing your .htaccess file or anything like that. And now our awesome engineers have installed Brotli on our DreamPress servers, to make our Managed WordPress offering even faster!

Why Now?

But if Google came out with this stuff last year, why are we just getting around to it now? Well, a couple reasons.

First of all, web servers have to be able to use it. Apache (the most common web server) is the closest with official support. IIS and nginx don’t yet, and have no plans to do so. Yet. Google made a special nginx module to help speed things up. That means for a web host, we have to decide how to handle the setup in the most future proof way.

The next problem is your browser has to support it. Chrome (yes, Google’s Chrome) didn’t until May of 2016. Firefox did first back in 2015, and IE—excuse me, Microsoft Edge—does now. Apple’s Safari doesn’t and hasn’t said anything one way or the other. Thanks, Apple.

When you factor in CDNs, it gets weirder as a lot of them don’t accept it and default back to gzip. This could cause your site to double-load when the CDN tries to collect the content, by having to check for Brotli and gzip. Ouch!

Finally, it’s for HTTPS only if you’re using Chrome, like 73 percent of the Internet. For DreamPress, since we only use nginx on for HTTPS, that meant putting it on hold until we had that active by default for all new accounts. Without HTTPS (and your free Let’s Encrypt certificate) it just wouldn’t do anyone on Chrome any good.

The stars all aligned for us, though, and for you. DreamHost is happy to be keeping up with the latest technological advances in web hosting, to make your site faster and you even happier. And that, my friends, is no small bread at all.

About the author

Mika Epstein

A happy DreamHoster since 2012, Mika is one of the WordPress developers at DreamHost. When she's not making DreamPress better or practicing being the person you want with you for the zombie apocalypse, she's slashing bugs in the next version of WordPress.

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