Web Performance Calendar

The speed geek's favorite time of year
2013 Edition

Stoyan (@stoyanstefanov) is a Facebook engineer, former Yahoo!, writer ("JavaScript Patterns", "Object-Oriented JavaScript"), speaker (JSConf, Velocity, Fronteers), toolmaker (Smush.it, YSlow 2.0) and a guitar hero wannabe.

A friend was suggesting that one can easily list the most popular stereotypes about a nation. With a little help from a friend – Google autocomplete. Simply type “why are the [nationality X] so …” in the old search box and enjoy.

After a few chuckles I thought: hm, I wonder what is the public’s consensus on my employer.

Wait, what – 3 out of 5 top searches are people wondering about performance! Surely these results must be customized to reflect some previous search history. Let’s try Bing and incognito mode (private browsing) just in case. Here are the first ten suggestions:

I’m not going to pretend I know how autocomplete suggestions are generated but it looks safe to assume that something like 7 out of 10 top searches come from people who are disappointed about the site/app being slow. We obviously have our work cut out for us.

But wait, how about some other popular sites out there?

Twitter? Probably a simpler app plus they recently moved from client-heavy rendering to server-side and now everything is much faster.


Ok, this is getting worrisome. But there’s got to be an exception. I know there is one site out there that has always claimed simplicity and speed is core to the experience. “Speed is #1 feature”. Everyone knows that Google is fast, right? Right?

Oh man, what we doing?! We, as in, the web developers.

Why is the web so slow?

And more importantly for us – the performance community – what are we going to do to fix this.

Web performance is absolutely number one complaint our users have. Hardly anything else in people’s searches is a complaint.

Clearly we have work to do! Studies unequivocally show that, online or offline, when you make people wait they get irritable and unhappy. Time is a limited resource, there are no refills, so people are understandably protective of how they want to spend it. Even when couples fight, if you really dig a little deeper, you’ll often find they actually argue about how they want to spend the time they have left on this planet, not about money or whatever it may appear on the surface. Speaking of money, you know the saying “Time is money”. Does it hold true? Not necessarily. Time can have much more value than money and people often gladly trade their money to free up some more time.

We may have accepted that web sites are slower than installed apps that have all the data they need on the hard drive. You know, network and all. But it would appear that our users have not accepted this as a fact. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we deliver on their expectations?