WPO Company Aptimize acquired by Riverbed


Aptimize (http://www.aptimize.com) is a Web Performance Optimization (WPO) company that has been around for a couple of years. If you have access to your web server, their Aptimize Website Accelerator product provides a set of tools that can improve efficiency. The methods used are standard in WPO, including file minify and concatenation.

However, Aptimize differs from most optimizations in implementing dynamic optimization based on the type of browser accessing your website. In other words, Aptimize sniffs the browser, they applies logic to adjust the content downloaded. So, minify and concatenation might be different, based on your computer platform or local browser software.

This implies that Aptimize uses “browser sniffing” to adjust downloads for particular browser types. Putting more of the browser detect code back on the server is something I’ve written about a couple of times in this blow. Over the past few years, we’ve gone to feature detection on the client/JavaScript side – rightly so, since feature detect will always be better than trying to ID a specific browser. However, applying the 80-20 rule, we know a few browser types, visible in their HTTP_USER_AGENT, cause most of the problems. One can handle most of the problem on the server side.

From the press release:

Aptimize goes beyond HTTP and TCP optimization and Web content optimization by transforming web content for faster delivery and a more responsive user experience. Aptimize’s technology reorders, merges and resizes content according to who is viewing it and from where. The end result is the application is delivered more effectively—up to four times faster—regardless of the platform used. (http://www.riverbed.com/us/company/news/press_releases/2011/press_071911a.php)

So, in terms of Sustainable Virtual design, we have

 

  1. HTTP and TCP Optimization – low-level stuff like SPDY that makes Internet data transfer more efficient
  2. WAN Optimization and Network Monitoring – optimize networks at a low-level, leverage cloud computing, make remote access as efficient as local access http://www.riverbed.com/us/solutions/wan_optimization/ and http://www.riverbed.com/us/solutions/visibility/
  3. Web Content Optimization – reduce HTTP requests, concatenate files, minify files, ideally based on client browser
  4. Web Design Optimization (includes UX and UI) – design so we aren’t “streamlining a Hummer”. Apply principles derived from Progressive Enhancement (e.g. Responsive Design) plus a Mobile First strategy. This is a major focus of this blog. While applying engineering at a low level can improve efficiency, the biggest gains will come from re-thinking web design.
  5. Web Business Model Optimization – Design so that a site creates maximum “bang for the buck” while minimizing its use of Internet energy and search (SEO) resources.

I can’t tell if Aptimize uses any client-side detection. Ideally, the best way to implement a Sustainable Enhancement strategy (a version of Progressive Enhancement with emphasis on minimizing the Internet footprint of a download, as well as adjusting for the user) is to have browser sniffing on the server-side, combined with a fast Ajax call to do client-side feature detection and relay it back to the server. This approach can handle long downloads (e.g. long search lists or database lists) more effectively.

Well now, Aptimize has been acquired by Riverbed Technology (http://www.riverbed.com/), a company that looks at the lower-level/hardware level of optimization. So, Riverbed will be able to apply network and website optimization all at once. This will help the big companies that can afford these services. What will small companies, clients, and small web design shops do? We’ll have to develop our own versions of optimization (hard), or develop a theory of Sustainable Virtual Design that will give real efficiency gains when handed off to the engineers.

Failure to do this will cause problems for the Internet ecosystem. One can imagine a world where sustainability requires that specific optimization principles be applied to every website. If these solutions are too expensive, it will discourage small websites from being created and deployed, thereby violating a larger principle of all sustainability frameworks, democratic access to the resource. If only large companies can be certified “green”, we’ll have a few large sites replacing the huge diversity of stuff on the Internet today.

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