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Spreading the Good Word (Speed)

I just read Google’s latest issue of “Think Quarterly”. In the lead article “The Google Gospel of Speed“, Urs Hoelzle (Google’s SVP of Infrastructure) gives an overview of the many ways Google is working to make the web faster. A few things stood out for me and I thought I’d share them.

My personal area of focus for the last couple years has been front-end web performance optimization and its automation. Typical websites and web applications have so much to gain from applying WPO to the front end, that efforts there simply dwarf other potential areas of optimization in terms of impact and ROI. That’s a big part of why I joined Yottaa and why I’m so excited about Optimizer and the value we provide. But Urs’s article reminded me once again of how broad the surface area is when it comes to attacking slowness. Google is simultaneously working on their own OS (Chrome/Chromium), browser software (Chrome), browser plugin (Page Speed), server modules (mod_pagespeed), network protocols (SPDY), updates to standards (HTML5, TCP), cutting-edge physical networks (ultra-high bandwidth fiber), and more… all with a common goal of making the web faster.

My personal feelings about Google vary, but in general it’s pretty awesome to have a company with such incredible resources (brainpower, money and reach) prioritizing the same thing — speed — that motivates me and my colleagues at Yottaa. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I’m grateful that Google continues to push on all these fronts.

A handful of other takeaways from the article:

“Fixed latency budget”

This is the perfect term for a great idea: if you add a feature that slows things down, you have to forget it, fix it, or change something else to offset the performance impact. I’ve championed this concept before but hadn’t used this specific label. I hope it becomes a popular catchphrase.

80% of internet users will click away if a video buffers just once

I’m more familiar than most people with the impact of performance on user behavior, but I hadn’t seen this one before. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s a pretty stunning number. Users’ attention is a fragile thing.

“Speed isn’t just A feature, it’s THE feature”

Returning to the “gospel” theme of Urs’s article, in my case he’s preaching to the choir. Amen, brother.

As always, I’m interested in others’ comments, please share yours.


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