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133 posts

Master Geek

# 115242 18-Mar-2013 23:42
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Takes me 16-20seconds on average. Quite painful

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BDFL - Memuneh
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  # 783776 19-Mar-2013 09:41
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First I will explain what we see here, how it works. Then we go into the specifics.

We collect some RUM (no, not the drinking type) on Geekzone. We use Torbit and Pingdom (this is still in beta). The values below are from Pingdom and reflect the last 30 days.

The median page load time on Geekzone is 3.4s. This means after this time every element on the page should be loaded and parsed by your browser. This includes DNS lookups, connection to web server(s), downloading content (HTML, CSS, scripts, images) and advertising. See how steady that line is?

Because we load scripts asynchronously the browser should have the HTML, CSS and images ready for rendering in a lot less than that. Usually in 1.5s a browser is showing the page content (text) in the format we wanted it, including the sytles and images. Only then it starts running scripts.

This means advertising should not impact the ability to interact with the page. The ads might not be showing yet but the whole page is there, users can read the content, scroll up and down.

We do this exactly because we don't want people waiting for ads.

One thing to note is that YOUR choice of browser will impact the page load time. These are the page load median per browser:

Some pages take a bit longer to load than others. For example the frontpage is faster than the forum pages. That's because it's generated faster on the server and because it has less elements to load than the forums.

The user location will impact this as well. Our servers are in Auckland, where 75% of our New Zealand traffic comes from. In Auckland you should expect a 10ms (or less) roundtrip to our server. From a hotel in Auckland I managed to get 1ms (yes, they have a better than average Internet service there, it's the Rydges). In Wellington I get 20ms on TelstraClear cable. In Christchurch you will get a bit more. You can't break the laws of physics here.

As you can see even if you're in the USA you still should see a sub 5s page load time. Even in the UK you should see good times (no pun intended):

Our images are hosted on Cloudflare. The closest POP is in Sydney, and currently I get 45ms to those servers. But since all images, CSS and other files are cached somewhere else, once these are loaded the impact on the page load is minimum. Your browser should cache those elements, your ISP most likely cache those elements in their transparent proxies.

We use CSS sprites where possible, to minimise the number of requests the browser sends to the servers. Our server minimise CSS and scripts as well. We do all this automatically by running Riverbed Stingray Aptimizer on the server.

It seems the OP specific case is an exception. The page load times is on the very end of the tail, a place I'd say is only occupied by browsers in some country with bad Internet infrastructure.

Advertising on Geekzone is well managed. We use Google DFP to select which ad to show. We try to get the ads loaded in a way that Google DFP tags will not only reply with a tag but also with the ad itself, saving roundtrips. 

Things that could impact negatively:
  • Your router or PC is not configured to use your ISP DNS. This is from Google DNS FAQ: "... because nameservers geolocate according to the resolver's IP address rather than the user's, Google Public DNS has the same limitations as other open DNS services: that is, the server to which a user is referred might be farther away than one to which a local DNS provider would have referred. This could cause a slower browsing experience for certain sites."
    • In other words your computer or network thinks you're somewhere else and will try to fetch content from the closes location. From all we know a PC could be loading ads from a server in Berlin if using the wrong DNS...
  • Ad blockers (as mentioned) might be a false saving. Some ad blockers hide the ads, but don't prevent the browser from downloading the scripts, executing them and actually showing the ads. It's a false sense of time and bandwidth saving. 
    • Ad blockers are pretty well coded but sometimes may have a truckload of rules. Those take time to apply, so not only people using ad blockers prevent us from realising revenue, they don't get much benefit at all.
    • A Geekzone subscription costs $25 a year. The main difference here is that we don't even send down the scripts. The HTML itself is smaller and the browser doesn't have to render/execute anything. Even if you have adblocker it won't interfere in page load times because there's nothing to hide.
  • Using WiFi instead of ethernet. Sure people use WiFi all the time and they don't have much complaints about page load speeds. But there are places where there'll be congestion due to an enormous number of networks trying to share the spectrum.
  • Antivirus with built-in web scanners. Those will run on your PC, taking CPU cycles and memory. These are resources your browser needs to load and render the pages. And your browser won't load and render anything until the scan is completed. If your antivirus needs to use "the cloud" for any reason that will delay page loading times.
  • Browser add-ons are installed. These may include adware and spywware scan web pages to add links to their own affiliates or advertising. This takes time and impacts the browser rendering. Even the Google toolbar, which is safe, will interfere with pages.
  • Your ISP cache/proxy may be misbehaving.
  • Your ISP routes may be configured incorrectly. Or they are being impacted by some external event (a submarine cable breaks down, traffic needs to go through another route). When we started using the CDN the Sydney POP had a 45ms ping for me on TelstraClear. Then something happened and it went up to 200ms. TelstraClear didn't help at all here. This lasted for about three months. Then for some reason, since last week we're down back to 45ms. 
  • Your ISP DNS may be configured incorrectly. For some reason is not using a local cache or CDN.
  • You are using a mobile connection. These usually have a higher latency than fixed line solutions. 
Obviously this is not a complete list of things out of our control.  

There's a list of things that impact the client. We do all we can to minimise the interaction between our pages and the client, keeping things simple. That's one reason why some people ask for "magical things with round corners" and we keep it simple instead. Bloating is not good.

The message here is: we do the best we can to make things faster. In exchange we appreciate if people don't block our ads - we need to pay for food, this is my full time job. If seeing the ads is too much, then a $25 subscription goes towards one year of ad free Geekzone, which will most likely make things a bit faster. We know around 30% of our logged in users are blocking ads.

Now, this is not a discussion about ad blocking but about performance. I put a list there, if anyone thinks of anything else, feel free to ad.

BDFL - Memuneh
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  # 783876 19-Mar-2013 12:53
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Further to my previous post... This map shows what countries are "happy" (green) or "sad" (red):

And this is our "apdex". 0 means everyone is getting bad performance, 1 means everyone is getting great performance. Our current index is 0.74:

Obviously this is a worldwide index. If we measured New Zealand only we would probably be a lot closer to 1, since those countries in red pull down the index.

And this is a breakdown of this median page load time:


BDFL - Memuneh
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