Skip to Main Content

Content Delivery Networks vs. Application Optimization

Since the early days of the web, companies have continuously searched for efficient and reliable means to deliver content to end users. For years, the content delivery network (CDN) was the prevailing technology to do so.

Today, however, web applications make unprecedented demands on browsers, delivery systems and devices. It’s clear that legacy content delivery networks are not fully up to the task, so companies are adopting application optimization technology to meet the needs of on-the-go users.

So, what is the difference between content delivery networks and application optimization?

Let’s start with CDNs:

Rise of the Content Delivery Network

Content delivery networks were born as Internet usage first skyrocketed. Cable and DSL access technology brought millions more users online and the web became truly global. Congruently, user expectations rose steadily; long wait times for page loads became unacceptable. Companies realized an immediate need to deliver content faster and more consistently to online users.

A CDN leverages numerous points of presence (PoP) centers around the world to distribute content. Using this network, data is moved effectively through the web’s chaotic “middle mile” and arrives at the end user faster. Moreover, a CDN reduces strain on origin servers during heavy traffic, ensuring greater consistency.

Problem solved! Improved user engagement drove revenue major growth but the good times did not last.

Application Optimization Technology Wins for the End User

So, why do content delivery networks fall short today? The answer lies with end-user behavior. The Internet is accessed and used in dramatically different and much more complicated ways today. Traditional CDNs leverage an “inside-out” model: online material is bundled, optimized, and pushed out to users upon request. This model fits a world where the users were static and bound to a desktop, however, it is impractical in a mobile-first environment.

Newer application optimization technology utilizes an “outside-in” model. This technique is more befitting for the plethora of devices, platforms, and network types utilized by users today. An “outside-in” approach takes into account an individual user’s unique context (a function missing from CDNs). User context includes variables such as location, device type, screen size, and operating system. Application optimization technology responds to these contextual cues and calls only content that is necessary from the server. This intuitive prioritization curates faster and more tailored experiences for the end user.

The main lesson is to always solve for the end user’s experience. Many businesses accomplish this through a combination of CDN and application optimization technologies, it’s key to finding a successful balance.

Learn more about user experience optimization, Beyond CDN: A New Model for User Experience Optimization.

beyond cdn whitepaper

Don’t let slow site performance cost you conversions.Let's Talk