Walmart Labs Scoops Up Site-Speed Optimizer, Torbit, To Help It Keep Pace With Amazon

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Josh Fraser and Jon Fox founded Torbit in 2010 after becoming fed up with the amount of time they and other engineers dedicated to the tedious process of managing website performance optimization — by hand. In 2012, the Sunnyvale-based startup launched its first solution, called Insight, in an effort to make the tools they’d spent years developing internally available to the public — without requiring a degree in computer science or 15 developers to understand them.

By allowing any online business to track that critical correlation between the time it takes for a website to load and their core business metrics, Insight attracted the attention of both enterprise players as well as startups like Wayfair, Storenvy, and the Cheezburger Network. By February of this year, Torbit was processing over 6 billion performance metrics a day for its customers.

With each second a website takes to load potentially results in the loss of critical business, something to which big e-commerce properties, like Walmart, are increasingly susceptible. Rather than building these tools themselves, Walmart Labs today announced that it is buying Torbit’s help.

While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, in its announcement today, Torbit said it will be joining Walmart Labs as part of the e-commerce giant’s move to bring some speed and performance optimization to Walmart’s online properties. Specifically, Fox says, Walmart will look to leverage Torbit’s dynamic content optimization technology to enhance the performance and shopping experience for Walmart customers — behind the larger, and perhaps more pressing goal, of helping it keep pace with Amazon.

Following the acquisition, Torbit will continue to keep its site running for 30 days, but will be shutting down for good on August 23. The company will be offering an export process to its customers to prevent them from losing their critical performance data, which readers can find here.

In an effort to meet the expectations of an increasingly digitally savvy consumer, Walmart Labs has been on a mission to develop new commerce solutions to stay ahead of encroaching competitors (and chase e-tail leaders like the ubiquitous Amazon), while enhancing the shopping experience of its millions of shoppers. To do that, the company has been following the Yahoo playbook of late, making a handful of acquisitions to bring startup talent in-house.

Today’s addition of Torbit to its startup roster follows Walmart Labs’ recent acquisitions of companies like Inkiru, OneOps and Tasty Labs, which are all part of an effort to help its parent company become an actual technology company (and not just another e-tailer) and beef up Walmart.com. Buying Inkiru, for example, gave the company access to a mobile-centric point-of-sale solution, while last year’s acquisition of Grabble provided a critical Big Data component, allowing it to improve fraud detection and prevention and in-store recommendations.

With these acquisitions, Walmart.com is now able to tap into and offer key features, like improved semantic search, Facebook integration and better mobile support — which are essential as the company adapts to its increasingly digital user base.

With the acquisition of Torbit’s front-end optimizer, Walmart said that it will be able to add much-needed device and platform-agnostic performance optimization tools and minimize customer attrition thanks to slow loading digital storefronts.

The startup’s technology, Walmart Labs’ Jeremy King said in a blog post today, can “dynamically minimize and compress the files the browser downloads to best fit the browser’s characteristics … and by rewriting the page to best exploit the performance behavior of the Web browser requesting the page, Site Optimization can help each browser fetch and render each page as efficiently as possible.”

With a growing share of its revenues emanating from its e-commerce portals, this kind of image loading is critical to allowing shoppers to find what they need in real time, without the traditional invective directed at their browser.

With the acquisition, Walmart said today that four of Torbit’s engineers will be joining its team, including co-founder Jon Fox.

Torbit’s announcement copied below:

Today we’re excited to announce that Torbit has been acquired by @WalmartLabs. We’ll be joining the team and bringing our Insight / Atlas technology to the Walmart online properties. In addition, we’ll be using our cutting edge Dynamic Content Optimization technology to enhance the performance and shopping experience for all of Walmart.com’s many online shoppers. We’re exited to help make the Walmart online experience even better by optimizing for your device and improving the performance of all of their existing and future sites.

Torbit has been a wild ride and we’ve been truly blessed to work with many great customers. We couldn’t have built any of our performance products without all of your feedback, testing, and patience. I am truly grateful to have worked with all of you. As part of this acquisition, we’ll continue to keep everything running for 30 days, until Friday, August 23, 2013, after which time we’ll have to wind down. We do offer an export process so you can keep all of your performance data. You can see an estimate of your export size here and if you’re interested in exporting your data please email us at support@torbit.com with a list of sites you’d like to export and we’ll send you instructions from there.

There has been a long list of great people who have helped Torbit along the way and I want to thank each and every one of you. From our investors, advisors, and employees to our customers, beta testers, and friends – we couldn’t have done it without you!