Google Retires Web Light Website Transcoding

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

The official Google developer page documents for Web Light Google and the associated user agent (googleweblight) are both retired.

Google Web Light

Introduced in 2015, the function of the Web Light service was to make more of the web available to users in countries with slow mobile connections and gadgets.

The service worked by optimizing web pages so that downloading them used 80% less information, leading to a four-fold increase in speed over the slower 2G mobile networks.

According to Google the service in a 50% increase in traffic to websites.

Web Light previously worked on Chrome and Android browsers and only when Google discovered a sluggish connection. The functionality did not trigger for desktop devices or tablets, just for mobile devices on slow connections.

Google Analytics still functioned in the Web Light optimized pages.

In regards to advertisement serving, Web Light enhanced pages supported Sovrn, Zedo, AdSense, and Google Publisher Tags.

So in theory Web Light must not have actually affected advertisement earnings however rather increased them given that transcoded web pages got up to 50% more traffic at the time.

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

The now erased documentation described the functionality of Web Light:

“Google reveals quicker, lighter pages to people browsing on sluggish mobile customers.

To do this, we transcode (convert) websites on the fly into a variation enhanced for sluggish customers, so that these pages load faster while saving information.

This innovation is called Web Light.

Web Light pages protect a bulk of the appropriate material and provide a link for users to view the initial page. “

Web Light No Longer Required

Seven years later on, the availability of inexpensive but powerful mobile devices and an enhancement in mobile connection speeds made the need of the service no longer required.

According to Statista, 99% of mobile data use in India during 2021 took place 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 was removed and a note was contributed to Google’s User Agent paperwork to communicate that the Web Light user agent is retired.

Google’s statement specified:

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

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

While this feature has actually worked as intended and enabled wider access to the richness of the web, increased cost of more powerful smartphones has reduced the requirement for such performance.

We stay committed to evolving and fine-tuning the Search experience to satisfy the changing needs of our users.”

Included image by Best SMM Panel/Asier Romero