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Google Retires Web Light Webpage Transcoding

Last December, Google announced its plans to retire the seven-year-old Web Light service, stating that it is no longer useful. Launched in 2015, the service allowed users with low-end devices or slow connections to access the Internet faster.

How does Web Light Work?

Webpage transcoding removes certain non-essential elements of a page, such as large images or videos. By removing the non-essential features, the pages load with 80 percent less data and up to four times faster on 2G mobile networks.

The Web Light service was designed to work with Chrome for Android devices alongside other Android browsers. The service automatically took over from ordinary browsing when the systems detected poor connection.

By introducing this service, Google recorded a 50 percent increase in website traffic. The functionality was limited to mobile devices and did not work on desktop browsers or certain tablets.

Updated Technology Since Web Light was Launched

In 2015, India–one of the two countries where Web Light was first launched–had 47 million 4G gadgets, a significantly small percentage of internet users. As of 2021, the number of 4G gadgets had increased to approximately 650 million. Internet access and connectivity had also increased dramatically.

Since Web Light was introduced, cheap and powerful mobile devices have become more accessible. Mobile network service providers also invested a lot in improving connections, which meant the service was no longer necessary.

Effect on Users and Website Owners

The service’s retirement may lead to reduced traffic for some sites, although the effect may be insignificant. Google advises site developers to use services like Progressive Web Apps and Accelerated Mobile Pages to ensure their sites are fully optimized for mobile devices.

Website owners will not be the only ones affected by this move. Users in poor connection areas may have difficulty connecting to websites or pages that require a significant amount of data to load. This can lead to poor user experience, which may push users to switch to websites that are more optimized for mobile devices.

On the other hand, users in areas with a relatively good connection will have access to more features such as videos, images, and other elements. This can make their browsing experience more enjoyable, which also works to the advantage of website owners. Better user experience means that visitors to a site will spend more time on it.

Changes Moving Forward

When announcing Web Light’s retirement on December 19, 2022, Google explained that the service’s purpose was to serve internet users with entry-level devices.

In the statement, Google also noted that the service worked as intended until more powerful smartphones became increasingly affordable, reducing the need for Web Light’s functionalities. Even with the retirement of the service, Google reiterated its commitment to evolving and refining its systems to meet the market’s changing demands.