Facebook has announced the release of a new Like Box plugin, rewritten “from the ground up” to be up to four times faster with smaller components, less CSS (now inline) and asynchronously loading JavaScript.

The Like Box plugin, pictured below, has proved extremely popular on the Web, but it has also become known for significantly weighing down sites, especially on slower connections. Given the ubiquity of Facebook and the popularity of this plugin among site owners, any improvement at all could quickly alter the way many people experience the Web.

Screen Shot 2013 02 26 at 3.08.49 PM The Web just got a speed boost: Facebook rewrites its Like Box plugin to be up to 4x faster

According to Facebook developer Stoyan Stefanov, the Like Box plugin in its simplest form (no stream, no friend faces, almost like a Like Button) has dropped from 15 resources to four, loads four times faster and is only 46K, instead of 245K.

You can view the before and after WebPagetest runs to see exactly what’s changed.

Similar advancements have been made to more complex configurations:

Take a look at the waterfalls when the show_faces option is true (example):

We have more requests because of the friend’s photos, but the initial paint is 0.3s (was 2.1s) and the onload fires at 0.75s (was 2.4s).

This news follows the release of Facebook’s speedier Like button plugin.

Image credit: AFP/Stringer/Getty Images