Google Retires Web Light Webpage Transcoding

Google Retires Web Light Webpage Transcoding

Google has announced that they are retiring the seven-year-old Web Light service that optimized web pages for devices on slow mobile devices and mobile connections.

The official Google developer page documentation for Web Light Google and the associated user agent (googleweblight) have both been retired.

Google Web Light

Launched in 2015, the goal of the Web Light service was to make more of the web accessible to users in countries with slow mobile connections and devices.

The service worked by optimizing web pages so that downloading them used 80% less data, resulting in a fourfold increase in speed over the slower 2G mobile networks.

According to Google, the service has a 50% increase in traffic to web pages.

Web Light previously worked on Chrome and Android browsers and only when Google detected a slow connection. The functionality has not enabled for desktop devices or tablets, only for mobile devices on slow connections.

Google Analytics continued to function in the Web Light optimized pages.

In terms of ad serving, Web Light optimized pages supported Sovrn, Zedo, AdSense and Google Publisher Tags.

So in theory Web Light should not have affected advertising revenue, but instead increased it as transcoded web pages received up to 50% more traffic at the time.

The service was first launched in Indonesia and then to India.

The now-deleted documentation describes the functionality of Web Light:

“Google shows faster, lighter pages to people searching on slow mobile clients.

To do this, we transcode (convert) web pages on the fly to a version optimized for slow clients, so that these pages load faster while saving data.

This technology is called Web Light.

Web Light pages retain a majority of the relevant content and provide a link for users to view the original page. “

Web light no longer needed

Seven years later, the availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and an improvement in mobile connection speeds made the necessity of the service no longer necessary.

According to Statista, 99% of mobile data usage in India during 2021 was over 4G devices.

In 2015, there were only 47 million devices that were 4G capable, compared to 650 million in 2021.

The Google developer documentation for Web Light has been removed and a note has been added to Google’s User Agent documentation to communicate that the Web Light user agent has been retired.

Google’s announcement reads:

“Removed the Web Light documentation and retired the Web Light user agent.

We introduced Web Light to enable us to serve faster, lighter pages to people browsing on entry-level devices.

While this feature worked as intended and allowed broader access to the riches of the web, increased affordability of more powerful smartphones reduced the need for such functionality.

We remain committed to evolving and refining the search experience to meet the changing needs of our users.”

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

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