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Using GZIP for Faster Websites

tar/gzip iconGood webmasters and system administrators are always looking for ways to increase efficiency and create faster websites. While much of website speed depends on the speed of the server, network connection, and the design of the site, there are other software tweaks that can add some zip to your site. Gzip compression is one of those tweaks.

Gzip is a free and open compression method, developed by the GNU project (the same project responsible for a good portion of GNU/Linux). Gzip is also an RFC 1952 standard and is the most popular method for web compression. What essentially happens is that the browser (client) contacts the site (host) and receives a header that indicates that the file can be compressed with gzip. If the browser supports gzip, it will respond and retrieve the compressed file, extract the contents, and display. As a result, it takes less time to download content, thus reducing stress on the server.

Gzip can reduce response size by 70%, which means a tremendous amount of savings on bandwidth. Furthermore, nearly 90% of browsers used on the Internet support it, which includes all modern browsers. The older ones that do not support it are fading away quickly. Apache 1.3 uses a module called mod_gzip, while Apache 2 uses one called mod_deflate. Many content management systems have support for gzip compression built into the backend, if the user choose to enable it.

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