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Speeding up apps.kde.org

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KDE

Apps.kde.org is a great website listing all the KDE applications and their addons. Under the hood, it’s using AppStream, a standard for adding metadata to Linux applications. The Linux application managers (Discover, GNOME Softwares, …) are displaying them, so they stay up to date and are translated. There was only one problem, apps.kde.org has always been a bit slow to load. It is a problem since slow websites tend to be less visible on Google search results and for the users there aren’t a good browsing experience.

There were many reasons why it was slow. We designed it earlier in a way that on each page load the backend load the data from json files. On the individual application pages, we only need to read one json file but on the homepage every single JSON files was loaded. The Linux kernel is probably caching every JSON file in the memory so that the IO load wasn’t that bad, but parsing the JSON files still needed to be done on each page load.

Using PHP and a Symfony (a big PHP framework) for doing the rooting, templating and internalization (loading additional mo files) of the website adds an overhead. The final result was that the load time for just one html files, was between 300ms and 500ms.

That doens’t sounds like a big deal, but it is one. Rendering a page takes more than just downloading one HTML file, the browser needs to load the other assets (images, CSS and javascript files); it needs to parse the HTML and CSS files and compute the layout. These operations are done in parallel, but the initial loading of the HTML files blocks every other operation. Also, these 300ms loading times can be a lot longer on bad internet connections.

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