A New Browser Extension Will Speed Up Your Crummy Airplane Wifi

Aka one less excuse not to get your work done

March 20, 2017 9:00 am

If you’re a fan of hit comedy Silicon Valley, you know that the key component of Pied Piper (the tech company started by the show’s protagonists) is that it provides stellar compression based on a really bizarre algorithm, which in turn speeds up internet performance for anyone using it. While shrinking things down to improve load times worked on HBO, a real-life team out of Northwestern University has achieved a similar end by rather different means: making things bigger.

Designed to speed up page-loading when in-flight wifi is being used, the aptly named ScaleUp extension for Google Chrome increases the size of images so browsers aren’t able to  display as many of them in a window, thereby allowing web pages to load significantly faster. In addition to the images trick, the extension also prevents specified fonts from loading, further reducing load times. Using the ScaleUp extension, content-heavy websites like CNN load as much as four times faster than they would if the extension wasn’t being used, according to the designers.

“It wasn’t something we expected to turn out as well as it did,” said James Newman of ScaleUp. “The improvements we’re seeing are better than what you would normally see.”

The extension is free for now, but you’ll have to pay for a flight to test it out.

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