To handle a completely dynamic, personalized travel guide that gives every user a different page, you need a new kind of web performance technology that goes beyond traditional CDNs. By streaming web applications instead of relying on caching and other dated technologies, Instart Logic slashed our page load times by 1.5 to 2 seconds – a 45% improvement – without requiring any changes to our code or user behavior. This not only saved us engineering time but it gave us performance superior to any CDN.
CTO of Trip.com
As the first social recommendation engine and truly personalized guide for travel, Trip. com benefitted from rapid user growth during 2011. While the growth validated Trip. com’s “trusted recommendation” model for travel, it also resulted in slow application load times for users trying to access the site from the East Coast of the U.S., Europe and Japan, far from the company’s cloud servers on the West Coast. Trip.com began using the Amazon CloudFront Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up its static content but quickly hit a performance wall. Trip.com then switched to Cotendo’s (acquired by Akamai) CDN service. To push aggressive business growth, Trip.com CTO Ori Zaltzman – a true web performance fanatic – needed even faster response times to increase time spent on site, user engagement, repeat visits, and, ultimately, revenues. Equally important, Zaltzman knew that faster web application response would lead to higher search engine rankings, increasing traffic and boosting visitor numbers.
As a travel site, Trip.com needed to give its users high-quality, high-resolution images to convey the richness of dynamic, personalized destination guides built on the fly. “If you use TripAdvisor, you see the same list of restaurants and hotels no matter who you are. In contrast, we use huge amount of data from Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare and build a personalized list based on your social network and tastes. We update the list in real time and every page is different for each user,” explains Zaltzman. This type of customized content, application structure and user requirements make caching images and web assets difficult, thus limiting the ability of traditional CDNs to improve web performance. “We need to propagate newly-posted images from our mobile app onto our personalized pages in seconds. To do that you need a different approach to accelerate applications” says Zaltzman. This was especially true for users accessing Trip.com from tablets and smart phones – currently 30% of traffic and growing – which have to deal with congested networks that slow data speeds.
Because Trip.com had taken great care to optimize for best practices in web performance, achieving a Google PageSpeed score of 96, automated FrontEnd Optimization options would have yielded minimal benefit while introducing unnecessary complexity that could have resulted in service interruptions. To ensure that Trip.com could continue growing quickly while maintaining a superior user experience, Zaltzman wanted a scaleout service that would:
- Significantly improve Trip.com’s application load times globally without adding servers or big infrastructure
- Drive improvements in user engagement and return visits while reducing bounce rates
- Deliver high-res images to dynamically generated pages without impacting load time
- Boost SEO and Google search rankings as well as conversions on affiliate travel partner sites.
The most noticeable benefit, says Zaltzman, was visibly reducing the time to deliver large 300-kilobyte images. Mobile users, too, strongly benefitted, attaining response times nearly indistinguishable from wired connections. “The improvement was like night and day,” says Zaltzman. “By slashing load times for new and return users, we saw users spend more time on the site, they visited more pages and they booked more hotels.”
Faster application load times across-the-board allowed Google’s crawlers to catalogue more of Trip.com’s pages and boosted SEO. Trip.com realized all these benefits while maintaining complete transparency with end users, across all browsers and all devices.
For Zaltzman, Instart Logic’s technology has delivered measurable improvements in bounce rates, time spent on site, and number of pages clicked, while allowing him to ser ve higher-quality images. Says Zaltzman, “We saved months of engineering time by using Instart Logic and got dramatic performance improvements. It was a no-brainer.”