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Our Brand New Page Serving Platform: Speed and Features

A big part of what we do here at Unbounce is all about removing the pain of dealing with technology hassles from the daily lives of marketers.  Things should Just Work™, and as an Unbounce customer you should be delighted to discover new and wonderful capabilities that magically appear for you.

Today is one of those delightful moments when we get to launch a truly significant improvement to the Unbounce platform, right under your noses.

We’ve been working on our new Page Server platform for a few months now, and today we launched it in full.  What does that mean for you?  Well, you get some solid performance and reliability enhancements for your published pages, plus a couple nice new features.

Multiple Data Centers for Reliability and Speed

With the first version of our page serving platform, we were only able to have one data center active at a time (usually in Virginia on the US East coast), with another data center serving as a standby that we could bring online in the event of any issues.  With our second-generation page serving platform we’re now able to have multiple data centers active simultaneously (California, Virginia, Ireland and Singapore), and that’s a big deal for a couple reasons.

We can now use Amazon’s Latency Based Routing feature to direct requests from your page visitors to a data center close to them, which will significantly reduce initial page load times.  We’ve measured the results using Pingdom, and we’ve seen the combined average for North America and Europe drop from about 0.6 seconds to roughly 0.4 seconds, and in some specific cases, initial* page load times are now several times faster.

And if any of our four data centers goes offline for any reason (software failure, hardware failure, Godzilla has the Singapore data center as a late-night snack), we’ll route traffic to the other data centers within just a couple minutes.

* In case you’re wondering why I say initial page load times, it’s only to be fully transparent with what we’re delivering today.  There are many factors that go into improving overall page load times (reducing page file sizes, using smaller image files, compressing files, the list goes on).  With our new Page Server platform, we’re improving one aspect of your overall page load times, and that’s the load time for the browser requesting the source code for your page.  After it gets that, it still has to look at the page and load up all the images, scripts and stylesheets.  I’ve included the actual measurements for initial page load times below if you’re interested.
Page Server load times in milliseconds

Initial page load times in milliseconds for a typical Unbounce page

Even More Speed with Faster Image Serving for Everyone

Ok, so what about the rest of your page?  We’ve had our Faster Image Serving feature in Unbounce Labs for quite a while now, and we thought this would be the perfect moment to release it to everyone.  From this point forward, any pages you publish will have their embedded assets (images, scripts and stylesheets), served by the Amazon Content Distribution Network, CloudFront.

If you’re not overly familiar with how a content distribution network (CDN) works, don’t fret, it’s actually quite straightforward.  Static assets that don’t change often (like images, scripts and stylesheets) are easy to serve up with plain old web servers, as opposed to dynamic pages that requires specially-configured web servers.  So a CDN puts thousands of plain old web servers in data centers around the world, closer to your page visitors, and makes it easy to push those static assets to them.  Then those asset links on your page need to be tweaked so they point to the CDN servers instead of your own.  Unbounce now does this behind-the-scenes for you automatically, so an asset link that used to look something like “/really-large-infographic.png” now looks more like “//”.  The end result is that all the assets on your page get served to your page visitor from a very fast server very close to them.

Support for Dynamic Text Replacement

We’ve been rolling out support for this in phases over the last few weeks, and with this latest update our Page Server platform is now ready for our upcoming Dynamic Text Replacement feature.  And if you’re concerned about speed, we do fancy in-memory caching and dynamic page pre-compilation to ensure that your dynamic pages are served up really fast.

CaSe iNseNsiTive URLs

We all make misteaks from tim-to-time.  Say you have a huge campaign going out with online and print media, location-based marketing that includes t-shirts, custom-printed marshmallows, the works.  But horror of horrors, some thoughtful soul printed the URL on your t-shirts in crowd-pleasing CamelCase instead of all-lower case and now it links to a broken page.  Well, panic no longer.  It’s a small thing, but Unbounce now supports CaSe iNseNsiTive URLs.  You can link to /BigHairyDeal, /bighairydeal, or even /BIGHAIRYDEAL (if you insist but please don’t) and it’ll all work just fine.

Now you might say: “Wait a second!  Won’t Google see all of those as duplicate content and whack my page ranking?”, and you’d be pretty smart for saying that.  But we thought of that too, and while we serve up your page at any of those URLs, we also include a proper “Link” header that points to the lower-cased version of your page’s URL, which search bots will see and understand that you’re just being kind to fat-fingered net-denizens.

Wish you could have been there…

We had a lot of fun with our launch ceremony on Monday, and I really wish you could have been there with us.  But for a small taste of what that was like, check out a screenshot of the fancy realtime visualization we displayed for everyone as we launched our new platform:

This realtime visualization of our global page server traffic looked great on the big screen during our launch ceremony

This realtime visualization of our global page server traffic looked great on the big screen during our launch ceremony.  You can just make out European traffic over the horizon on the upper right.

Oh, and one last thing, now that we have a new Page Server platform, we’re also looking forward to adding SSL support, and a few other features you’ve been asking for.  Stay tuned.

-Carl Schmidt, CTO