Understanding Mobile Web Browser Performance

Rajiv Vijayakumar (Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.)
Mobile Performance Ballroom ABCD
Average rating: ***..
(3.33, 9 ratings)

In this session, attendees will participate in an in-depth discussion of two key aspects to understanding mobile Web browser performance: (i) the specifics of 3G/4G mobile networks, and (ii) the constraints on browser software architecture from operating on a mobile device.

(i) Mobile networks generally exhibit much higher latencies than seen on wired networks. Bandwidth can fluctuate, and there are power and latency considerations related to bringing the radio connection up and down in response to network traffic patterns. We will use examples to illustrate this concept and suggest guidelines for front-end engineers to optimize for mobile networks.

(ii) In order to understand the impact of constraints on mobile browser software architecture, we will look at the Android browser. Because it is open-source, Android allows for unique insights into the overall performance of the mobile browser.

The Android Web browser has some unusual features that have a significant impact on page download performance. For instance, by default it uses four HTTP processing threads, which means that it can process requests on at most four sockets concurrently. The impact of this is mitigated significantly by another key feature, which is that the Android browser pipelines HTTP requests (and it is perhaps the only mainstream browser to do so by default). In addition to these two features, a third factor that has a significant impact on page load times is the browser’s caching policies. It is also important to understand the role that DNS lookups and TCP algorithms play in the overall page load process.

With the constraints above, simple design choices can have a significant impact on page load time. We will take a look at specific case studies, including sharding across multiple domains, and the impact on the browser cache of tiny sprites that decode to over a megabyte. We will demonstrate how various tools can be used to analyze and understand page load behavior on Android Web browsers (such as pcapperf, htracr, and Qualcomm’s own Web optimization tool for developers).

The level of this session is intermediate – some knowledge of the basics of DNS, TCP and HTTP will be helpful to attendees (e.g. of the level of John Rauser or Tom Hughes-Croucher’s talks from last year’s Velocity). We will quickly go over the basics so that people unfamiliar with the protocols should still be able to follow the presentation.

As a result of this session, attendees will have a deeper understanding of how Internet protocols, wireless networks, browser software architecture and Web page design all come together to determine page load performance in mobile Web browsers, especially for the Android OS. The talk should help front-end engineers in particular to optimize their design and content for the mobile environment.

Photo of Rajiv Vijayakumar

Rajiv Vijayakumar

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Rajiv Vijayakumar
Staff Engineer, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies

Rajiv Vijayakumar serves as a staff engineer for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT), where he leads the network stack optimization efforts within the Web technologies group, and works with the chipset architecture team on Web browser benchmarking, profiling, and modeling. He was previously with the QCT modem systems group, where he worked on analysis and optimization efforts covering a wide range of projects, including modem throughputs and round trip times, file system throughputs, and system level concurrency.

Prior to joining the Qualcomm team in 2006, Vijayakumar served as a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Washington where he worked on modeling and performance analysis of 802.11 networks. His research has been published in several journals and conferences, including the IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking.

Vijayakumar holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, an MS from Louisiana State University, and a B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, all in Electrical Engineering.

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Picture of Siddharth Anand
Siddharth Anand
06/24/2011 4:20pm PDT

Very good talk. Waiting for the video so that I can share it.

Picture of Steve Souders
Steve Souders
05/31/2011 9:34am PDT

I was excited to hear Rajiv’s observations about mobile network. But I didn’t understand the performance benefits a chip maker could bring to the world of mobile until I met some of Rajiv’s colleagues at Mobilism. Wow! I won’t give away the thunder here, but I was very surprised and impressed. The takeaways go beyond just one chip or one device.

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